Tanya Conole, Health & Safety Professional & ASLS Guest Blogger investigates how your actions as a Safety Professional affects the ownership of safety in the workplace.
You’re at a worksite and there is discussion around the work and the requirements to do it safely. People turn to you for help. Time to ask yourself how you will respond. Time to ask yourself: Are you a safety advisor or a safety doer?
When I first joined the safety profession I worked with an advisor whose mantra was that he was a safety advisor not a safety doer. The concept was a little strange to me at first – isn’t it our job to do whatever we can to make sure no one gets hurt – and I found myself wondering what the difference was.
Over time spent with this gentleman, I saw that in his eyes a safety advisor is there to provide information and guidance – to help those associated with the process through it – while a safety doer will actually go ahead and do the work that is required to make the environment or activity safe. From him I learned that the key difference between the two perspectives is ‘ownership’.
“…the key difference between the two perspectives is ‘ownership’.”
Ownership is important for three reasons. Primarily, to take ownership is to take responsibility so by taking a step back you are essentially empowering the involved personnel to take responsibility for their workplace, activity or method of work i.e. their own safety. Secondly, while you are the subject matter expert when it comes to all things safety, it may be that you don’t have the necessary expertise about the work subject matter so you are really better off leaving the finer details to the personnel engaged in the work. Lastly, there is a requirement for consultation under the WHS legislation not only amongst working parties, but also with any person who holds a workplace health and safety duty; stepping in and ‘just getting it done’ could erode this consultation process.
“Are you a safety advisor or a safety doer?”
I was in the early stages of my health and safety career when I was fortunate enough to have this experience and I carry it with me always. Even though the WHS legislation has been crafted to ensure that everyone is engaged in their efforts to create a safe working environment, I believe that learning your place in these efforts and empowering others to take ownership for their own safety, is crucial to a successful health and safety career.
So next time you are in this situation it may pay to take a moment and ask yourself: Are you a safety advisor or a safety doer?
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