Newsletter: 5 things I have learned about health and safety

Julie Prutton – Business Development Lead at the Safety Charter

As we near closer to the end of the year and into the festive season, many of us look back to reflect on the year that was. Six months now into my role as the Charter’s Business Development lead, a lot has been achieved in that time and a lot has been learnt. We have produced new marketing collateral which clearly states our value proposition and what we offer our members. A new health and safety self-assessment tool was launched in September which allows companies (members and non-members) to measure their h&S processes against The Charter’s 10 commitments. We launched our  Safety Charter Facebook page and  our closed member peer to peer Facebook support group , which is gaining  momentum. My personal highlight was helping our member, BESIX Watpac, through a bespoke Charter run event, present and share their insights into how their WHS system will be applied to the Te Kaha, multipurpose arena project. Attended by over 110 people, well received and a great way for those who came to gain a better understanding on how this amazing structure will come together in a healthy and safe way.

Achievements aside, I have also learned a lot in the last 6 months about health and safety. Mainly, there are a lot of passionate health and safety people out there. The Safety Charter has 2 internal working groups: the health and safety leaders group and the professional services working group. Both these groups are comprised of passionate people, who give up their time to meet monthly and drive a range of H&S and professional services leadership initiatives, events and workshops for the Safety Charter. Without the generosity of their time and the willingness to share their knowledge, our events and workshops would not be as high calibre as they are. We are also very fortunate we have amazing members, who give up their time to speak at workshops and events, to help develop and grow skills and knowledge to enhance and improve health and safety performance amongst our members and wider health and safety community. The Charter thanks you all for your time, effort and continuous support.

I am very fortunate to meet so many inspiring people in my role, who all have a story to tell. Most concur they did not see themselves going into health and safety when leaving school and commencing their careers. A lot were pushed in that direction as no one else wanted to step up and many eyes were opened into what wasn’t being done right. Others had experienced or witnessed work site accidents, resulting in fatalities or serious injury and from there vowed never to do something that they knew could be unsafe and that no one else would have to do so either. These stories all have a common theme. People are the problem and people are the solution, and health and safety is all about understanding people and what their motivations and values are. The health and safety practitioners I have met, all have a passion for keeping people healthy and safe, which leads onto my next lightbulb moment.

Communication, connections and collaboration, or what the Charter calls “the 3 C’s”, is at the heart of what should lie within workplace safety. In the workplace, particularly on work sites and in active, dynamic work environments, effective collaboration promotes an effective safety culture. Building an effective workplace safety culture relies on effective collaboration and communication. Meeting employees may be old but remains one of the strongest ways to build collaboration among workers for better safety. Having interactive in-person or online meeting sessions with your employees helps boost workplace collaboration in many respects. Employers can use this medium to mould a healthy, efficient safety culture among employees. Employers can also set organisational goals focused on enhancing safety for workers, contractors, visitors, and customers. It is important for managers to let their employees know what roles they need to play in improving workplace safety. When employees remain committed to safety goals, team efforts towards reducing accidents get a boost. Onto my 4th moment.  The word “Culture” is heavily used, but how do you create culture in your workplace? A safety culture is a broad, organisation-wide approach to safety management. A safety culture is the end result of combined individual and group efforts toward values, attitudes, goals and proficiency of an organisation’s health and safety program.  In creating a safety culture, all levels of management are highly regarded on how they act toward workers and on a day-to-day basis. Upper management commitment to workplace safety helps workers take it more seriously and translates into a safer work environment for everyone. Responsibility for encouraging the safety culture may start with management, but it trickles down to each individual in the company. Everyone has a part in keeping themselves and others safe. The concept of “culture” includes the shared values of the community. The workplace is a community; the importance of safety is a responsibility that is shared by employees, management, contractors, vendors, suppliers and others who may engage with the workplace. Management must set the tone for a safety culture. If safety communication & actions from management are positive and proactive, then day-to-day operations and safety culture will reflect that. My final moment, that has been obvious with those I have met in my role. If you are looking to get into health and safety do it for the right reasons. Health and safety is all about people. If you move into health and safety for power or the rules and regulations, you should probably do something else. You cannot influence people you can’t engage with. You need to have resilience, integrity, communication skills, the right attitude, and mostly, empathy.

On that note, have a wonderful and safe festive season, enjoy some down time with your family and friends and looking forward to seeing you all in 2023 at the Safety Charter events, workshops and networking.

Yours in health and safety,

Julie Prutton, Business development lead Canterbury Safety Charter

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