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A spotlight on our Future Leaders
Our Future Leaders come from a wide range of backgrounds and have experienced varying routes into the OSH industry and IOSH Membership. We’ve asked some of them to share their thoughts on the Future Leaders Community.
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Having a baby can change many things in your life. For one member of our Future Leaders Community, it inspired an exciting new professional journey. Health and safety was the career I didn’t know I needed, writes Rachel Clark.
Megan is safety, health, environment and quality (SHEQ) advisor at RSK Group and member of the IOSH Future Leaders Community Steering Group. She explains why she thinks mentoring is important:
Mentoring is an extremely beneficial free resource that should be a key part of your occupational safety and health (OSH) career progression, no matter what stage you’re at.
It is important that you find the right fit as no two mentee-mentor relationships are the same. If you’re a mentee, complete your analysis and personal development plan to highlight what areas you’d like and would benefit to be mentored on. If you’re a mentor, recognise your strengths and be clear in what elements you can offer support and mentorship in.
Developing the relationship can help both of you learn new things, build your networks, and most importantly grow together as professionals. Having a trusted individual – outside of your own company and ‘work bubble’ – who has your best interests in mind and can offer unbiased advice and opinions has proven invaluable to my OSH career journey so far.
Everyone will gain something different from mentoring.
I have personally gained a wealth of knowledge and resource from my mentoring relationship so far, including:
I spoke to my mentor, Karen Godfrey CFIOSH for her perspective of being a mentor. Karen is head of safety, health, environment and quality (SHEQ) for nuclear at infrastructure and construction company Morgan Sindall.
“In the early stages of my career as a graduate health and safety adviser, no one really talked to me about IOSH or career progression other than following the pre-determined structure of a graduate programme. As a result, I started my IOSH journey quite late on in my health and safety career and in many ways that has made my IOSH journey more challenging. I decided to become a mentor so that I could support people at various different stages of their IOSH journey and help them prepare for the next steps in their career. It’s also a great way to meet new people and to learn about different industries.”
“I’ve been reminded about how stressful the Chartered process can feel when you’re in it! Many of my mentees are about to go through their panel interview or are resitting it – I can help guide them in terms of how to best prepare themselves for the day. I volunteer as a panel member for the Chartered interviews so this also helps me to settle their nerves and explain the process to them. I’ve also gained appreciation for how varied a career in health and safety can be – from health and safety lead for a veterinary practice to offshore wind farms – no two mentees are the same!”
“What are you waiting for? Registering to become an IOSH mentor is simple and once you’ve created your profile the rest is up to the mentee. Mentoring does not have to be rigid or formal. Each of my mentees requires a different level of support from me, ranging from structured one-to-one sessions each month to a more relaxed ‘catch up’ approach. Not every health and safety professional is in a position where they have someone they can talk things through with so quite often the role of the mentor may be as simple as acting as a sounding board to someone. It’s such a rewarding feeling to see someone you have been mentoring secure the next level of their IOSH membership or that next promotion based on guidance, advice and support you have given them.”
Whether you are a mentee, mentor, or both, the benefits you can gain can make a big difference to your career and personal development.
As occupational safety and health (OSH) professionals, we understand the value of incident reporting in the workplace.
Reporting unsafe conditions, near misses and minor incidents can have a positive impact on reducing the potential for major incidents (FE Bird's accident triangle).
However, I'm always intrigued to understand the reasons why incidents are not reported.
Following recent conversations with other OSH professionals, I have noted several common issues and trends with incident reporting.
A lack of understanding of the types of incidents and the importance of reporting these may lead to people not reporting poor conditions, near misses or minor incidents. For example, a near miss may be classed as a ‘lucky escape’ which ‘most likely won’t happen again, so why report it?’
If there is a poor safety culture within an organisation – or even an isolated department – an individual may be less likely to report an incident and simply class it as an ‘occupational risk’. An example might be something like a worker incurring regular cuts to their hands from damaged tools or equipment.
Previous reports may have resulted in no investigation or rectification of the issues highlighted – for example loose carpet causing slips and trips – so the person does not think there's any point reporting incidents because ‘nothing will get done’.
Difficult or onerous reporting platforms can make people less likely to report an incident as they see it as a chore. They may also not appreciate the value it adds to understanding organisational, or departmental, risks.
Disproportionate investigations and ‘pointing the finger’ can prevent future reporting, especially if the reporter is penalised or reprimanded for the incident occurring. If people fear they will be punished or blamed they may think twice about reporting.
So, what can be done to promote incident reporting and, ultimately, make the workplace safer?
Firstly, I think it's important that we provide adequate training on the differences between unsafe conditions, near misses and incidents, and outline the importance of reporting these. Providing relatable examples of the types of things we would like to see reported can often reinforce the message that even the small incidents or near misses are important in reducing the potential for major incidents. There's a range of IOSH health and safety awareness courses for different levels of knowledge and industries.
Additional training on the use of the reporting platform or template and ensuring this is as user friendly as possible makes it easier for reports to be logged. For example, posters with QR codes which take employees directly to the form on their mobile phones means that they can report an incident at any time of day. They do not have to remember to log an incident once they're back at their workstation.
Changing the attitudes of the organisation to view the reporting of incidents positively and a catalyst for positive improvements means that employees will report incidents without feeling as though they are going to be reprimanded for an incident occurring. Equally, allowing them to report positive observations or good practices can promote a positive safety culture which focuses on the good as well as the areas for improvement.
Finally, investigating incidents proportionately and ensuring that any issues identified are followed up in a timely manner will provide employees with the reassurance that their reports can make a difference and improve their working conditions.
Being the trusted adviser can be incredibly intimidating, especially when starting out in the health and safety profession, or when promoted to a role that has more responsibility attached to it. There are so many stigmas attached to the profession as well, which can be daunting to someone who is excited, eager to learn and make a difference. Don't be disheartened by these challenges, though, because becoming a trusted adviser can be achieved.
Before I elaborate on my own experience, what does it mean to be the trusted adviser? Should we be the police officer that knows the rule book to the tee and brings out the stick when they don't follow them? Or do we want to be the person that people turn to when they need advice and may be in a dangerous situation that they don’t know how to resolve. At times, we are perceived as the former and as soon as our backs are turned it is back to doing things the way they were done before. Being the trusted adviser changes this, but it is no easy feat, and you may not always win.
My journey started 12 years ago, where I joined my company as an administrator in the risk department. Over a period of six years, I learned all I could about health and safety, obtained a qualification while working and supported a team that managed the health, safety and environmental programme. One could say I was nowhere near being a trusted adviser at that point, but I was recognised for the work I was doing and was promoted to group health and safety coordinator.
It was a huge jump from being an administrator to having to coordinate the health and safety programme for multiple operations. How do you become a trusted adviser when you are not only significantly younger than your peers, but also have to be seen as knowing what you are talking about at all times? It was very intimidating, and it took me five years to be fully trusted by the decision-makers in my company. It can be done.
What really helped me grow into my role was continuous learning on both a personal and professional level, and especially about business. The best advice I can give for anyone starting out in our profession is to get a good understanding of the business you work for. What are their goals? What are they striving to achieve? If you don’t understand what it all means, ask questions, and see if you can attend meetings where information about the business is shared. Your next task is to link health and safety to the business strategy and demonstrate how what you are doing helps them achieve their goals; you are now speaking their language. If you don't do this your chances of success are significantly lower.
Secondly don't be the bad cop. We can easily be swayed into believing that our role is to punish bad behaviour. This perception is starting to change within our profession as we start to demonstrate our value in other ways, but it can still be easy to fall into that trap. Listen, show empathy, and understand why things happen, then use that to motivate for change.
IOSH has some amazing tools available to help anyone struggling to become the trusted adviser. One of their most important tools is the newly improved IOSH Blueprint. The blueprint helps you get a better understanding of your current competencies and guides you to devise a personal development plan aimed at improving your behavioural, core and technical skills. The tool can also be used for:
There is also the IOSH Mentoring platform where you can be mentored and mentor others who may need some guidance. Finally, there is the Future Leaders Community where you can connect and discuss your challenges as you start out in your career and get advice and guidance from peers who may be in a similar situation as you. You are not alone, and nothing is impossible!
We’d love to hear from you. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, job title, organisation, maximum 500-word case study and any supporting photos.