It is time to get creative about health and safety
This weekend, the 94th Academy Awards ceremony took place in Hollywood. It was the moment of the year when the Oscars were awarded. The Oscars are important: they are a recognition of creative excellence and the artistic and technical merit in the film industry.
There were plenty of reasons to be excited about Hollywood’s biggest night: a whopping 12 nominations were submitted for a single title, The Power of the Dog, alongside nominations for various other exciting titles. Regardless of who carried home the most Oscars, there has never been a better time to be in the film industry. With the amazing content on offer, there has never been a better time to be a consumer.
I’d like to take a moment to reflect on this success and the invaluable contribution that the OSH profession makes to the film industry’s feat of creative excellence and secondly on what we as OSH professionals can perhaps learn from this.
After many years of relative calm, I have observed an acceleration in debates on who we are as OSH professionals, what we are here for and how we should do our work. This is greatly inspiring and refreshing; it helps us evolve our much-loved profession. With numerous podcasts, YouTube channels and scores of new books, we are given the opportunity to innovate, be impactful and make the OSH profession 21st-century proof.
As an enthusiastic consumer of much of this content, it strikes me that despite our good intentions, we continue to debate ‘how to do safety’ and spend much less time on what the problem is that we are actually trying to solve.
A good example of a discussion on how safety is done is that of adherents to ‘traditional safety’ versus those that believe in ‘the new way of doing safety’. With this inward-looking and somewhat binary discussion, we are keeping ourselves busy but seem to be missing a crucial point. Shouldn’t we be outward-looking instead, and take time to understand what our organizations really need and how we as professionals add value?
I am lucky to have been exposed to many organizations and their cultures throughout my career. Each organization that I have been part of has its own identity, its distinct needs, its health and safety challenges, all within its unique organizational context. Something that would work in one company could completely miss the mark in another. Since there is apparently no one right way to do safety, the debate on ‘how safety is done’ suddenly seems a bit vain.
Let’s reconsider and explore if we can learn from the Oscars and should go for creative excellence in health and safety instead.
In my opinion, this would constitute a relentless drive to be best at what we do with a laser-sharp focus on what our customers need. Creative excellence would free us from existing paradigms and perhaps some dogma. Imagine the amazing teams of OSH professionals that combine their professional and creative skills with their deep understanding of the different ways they could approach safety in their organisational context. Such teams will take the best of all worlds and come up with bespoke OSH programs that manage to inspire business leaders to deliver real and lasting impact.
This is a truly commendable aspiration. If we manage to deliver creative excellence, we can unlock the great potential of our profession and our people. One day, we will all win an Oscar.
Wouter de Gier
Member of IOSH and Health and Safety Director at Netflix