“That guy died because I did not do my job”

Malc Staves, corporate health and safety director of L'Oréal, is passionate about improving safety.

Have you ever felt responsible for the death of someone? This is a feeling that was shared at the recent HSE Excellence Europe in Frankfurt …

“That guy died because I did not do my job.” This statement was one of the most significant utterances at HSE Excellence Europe. It’s quite obvious I guess, because, when safety managers fail, people die. However, it is seldom that anyone actually accepts responsibility.

HSE Excellence Europe was all about accepting responsibility, raising safety standards and getting beyond that dreaded plateau. Numerous global experts addressed the 200 delegates on these subjects (read all about it on page 20). For me, Malc Staves, corporate health and safety director of L’Oréal, was one of the best.

He spoke about transforming the culture of the biggest company within the beauty industry (L’Oréal employs 82 900 people and has a turnover of €25,3 billion or about R414 billion).

The culture change meant going from environmental, health and safety (EHS) driven by EHS, to EHS driven by line management – this involved a strategy of transformation and a change in company culture.

Staves stressed that this meant no more “business as usual”. “The world is changing and people have changed. Future health and safety challenges will be solved together. Forget about the old belief that leadership starts at the top! Within your company, you need to look everywhere for your future leaders. At L’Oréal, we decided that we wanted to transform all our employees into safety leaders,” he told delegates.

In order to achieve this, L’Oréal adopted a bottom-up approach to safety. “We aimed to develop a mindset of ‘I am my brother’s keeper’. We trained people to challenge others in a positive way; you don’t want to annoy colleagues,” Staves explained.

People were trained and processes were revised. The end results have been exceptional. “Our people have the knowledge and capability to perform tasks the safe way every time.

“Everyone is aware of and understands the dangers and risks around them. Expectations and actions are clear to all, and we continually deliver a positive outcome,” Staves revealed.

Proactive employee participation is obviously key. “We can feel the safety commitment and passion in their everyday interactions with each other,” he reported.

So things are going well at L’Oréal, but Staves is not resting on his safety laurels; he has a plan going forward to 2020, in which he will further improve the company’s safety credentials.

It’s clear that his heart is in the right place. “We do safety because it is the right thing to do – not for any monetary benefit,” he told HSE Excellence delegates. I think Staves is also passionate about safety because he doesn’t want to be the speaker at the next HSE Excellence who has to say: “That guy died because I did not do my job.”

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