Senior managers and directors need to demonstrate a genuine commitment to safe and healthy working if an organisation is to move from basic legal compliance to health and safety excellence, the British Safety Council’s chief executive Mike Robinson told a recent conference organised by the Indian multinational business Tata in Mumbai.
Addressing the audience of senior health and safety practitioners from within the Tata group, Mr Robinson said visible and effective leadership and commitment by directors and managers was crucial for inspiring and encouraging staff to always act safely and to get involved in managing health and safety risks.
“The British Safety Council’s view is that rules and legislation will only ever drive basic health and safety compliance,” he told the conference. “To go beyond compliance, and towards the vision that no-one is injured or made ill at work, a different approach is required. Businesses have to inspire people to deliver continuous improvement and drive towards excellence.”
Mr Robinson said workers look to their leaders and managers to set the tone on health and safety, making it essential directors and managers always model positive behaviours, talk to employees about health and safety issues and get personally involved in managing health and safety risks.
Citing the example of a top company director clearing up a slip hazard created by a colleague to highlight how leadership is not just about “big, showy statements”, he said: “We’re all leaders and we can all make a real difference by inspiring people in our own businesses. You need to model positive behaviours continually, whatever you’re doing.
“So, the challenge is when you go back to your day job - get out with your team and show them your commitment to safety; engage in conversations with them; identify and fix hazards; and involve the team show them that safety is important and that it supports business efficiency.
“They will look to you to lead the way – keep it simple and you’ll soon see the benefits.”
To demonstrate the practical application of health and safety leadership, Mr Robinson provided some good practice examples drawn from British Safety Council health and safety audits of leading businesses. These included a transport and logistics company where all the senior leaders committed to personally tackling a specific health and safety challenge, working with staff to identify the root causes of incidents and leading the implementation of the agreed solutions.
The conference was organised by the Tata Business Excellence Group (TBExG), which aims to help companies within the Tata group achieve business excellence, including in health and safety management.
The event brought together 80 participants from 39 Tata group companies, and was supported by senior health, safety and operations leaders from other major businesses in India, such as Larsen & Toubro, Hindustan Unilever, Rallis India and Shell.
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