Most organisations seeking to hire a new safety professional for a role in the organisation give considerable thought to the educational and qualification requirements of the role.
The position is considered from the perspectives of the safety qualifications and experience that would be required to achieve a good outcome for the organisation.
However, a critical factor which is frequently overlooked is how the approach and attitude of the candidate will fit with the culture and goals of the organisation.
A good safety culture can be either created, supported, or ruined by the attitude of the organisation’s safety leader(s).
For example, a safety professional with an authoritarian approach, on a crusade to achieve compliance, will in all likelihood put workers off-side and have an adverse effect on the overall levels of compliance. Being passionate about safety is a good thing, but being a tyrant about it is counter-productive.
Similarly, the safety culture can be made cynical and distrustful as a result of regular mismatches between what the safety professionals say to workers and what actually happens across the organisation – that is, when they only “talk the talk” and don’t “walk the walk”.
The predominant ‘Australian culture’ influences workers’ attitudes on health and safety in that they generally don’t comply with the safety requirements of their organisation because they are told to – they comply because they understand why they’re being asked to do so. While a range of factors inter-relate in this process, the over-riding issue is one of trust; workers and managers trust what the safety professional is telling them, it makes sense, and based on experiencing consistent positive interactions with the safety professional, there is no reason to doubt their intentions.
The “people skills” of safety professionals are therefore critical to the development of trust and the development of positive safety culture. In addition to a comprehensive technical understanding of the WHS field, they must:
- be able to engage effectually with workers at all levels of the organisation
- have excellent communication skills
- have the ability to consult and listen to workers’ concerns and suggestions.
The attainment of a Cert IV in OHS, for example, or the ability to develop a safety form does not make a safety professional – the organisational fit of the person is key.
To achieve the best outcomes for your workplace, when next developing the position description and selection criteria for a safety professional, consideration needs to be given to the personal attributes and attitudes of the candidate in addition to their safety experience and qualifications.
Please contact QRMC for more information.