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Future Leaders: you’ve got 99 questions? Join the club.

Joel Baker, a member of IOSH's Future Leaders Community and a CDM Consultant with Goddard Consulting, explores how an enquiring mind is one of the key responsibilities of an OSH professional.

Everyone likes to be right. Is that right? This is the first of my questions.

As I set out on my career in H&S, I’m keen to find the answers. The correct answers. I want to be the person that makes the right moves, moves businesses in a positive direction, and is a source of insight and knowledge. To be a future leader I need my 99 questions answered - or do I?

Let’s explore this further. To get my questions answered I’ve turned towards reading and learning from the current crop of great minds and leaders in safety. What answers can they give me?

One widely adopted approach to H&S is Behaviour Based Safety (BBS). BBS is founded on the belief that workers can be motivated to behave safely using positive reinforcement. It’s not enough to tell someone what to do in a toolbox talk; they need the consequences of their actions to be positive and supported. Getting employees involved in a safety cycle that purportedly encourages desired behaviours and improves safety performance - sounds great, sounds sensible. However, detractors have suggested that the BBS model can lead to inaccurate reporting, blame on employees (after all it is their behaviour) and identifying the wrong root cause.

Right then. If BBS is wrong, what’s right? Let’s look at Safety Differently (SD). SD is a relatively new approach adopted by, amongst others, John Green, Senior Vice President and Chief Safety Officer for AECON Corporate.

SD is a hard concept to define within a 500-word blog, so definitely take the time to read into to it yourself, but here it goes: SD advocates a move away from traditional metrics and suggests that rather than looking at where things go wrong, the focus should be on ‘normal work’. Where are examples of work being done well, and how can we emulate those?

SD in theory sounds plausible but its practical application has been questioned. How can SD be applied in a world of regulation and insurance? When a board questions safety, would they want to hear that employees have been given complete responsibility or that metrics do not provide an accurate representation of performance?  Tough gig.

So, I’ve tried to find the answer by looking at BBS and SD, and now I have more questions.

But…hold the press…more questions are great!

Ask any safety director, any Head of Safety or in fact almost anyone in H&S and they’ll still have at least 99 questions. Indeed, an enquiring mind is one of our key responsibilities as a H&S professional. And there is no one way to skin a cat when it comes to safety.

As part of the Future Leaders Community, it’s essential to continue to question everything. When we gathered at the Future Leaders Conference in November, many of us came away with more questions, not less. And that’s a good thing.

Got 99 questions? Join the club!!

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