Creating A Health And Safety Strategy – Where Do You Start?

Creating A Health And Safety Strategy – Where Do You Start?

Published May 27, 2021

3 minute read

This video was originally posted by the specialist health and safety recruitment company Irwin & Colton as part of their excellent Safety Bytes series. Visit the Irwin and Colton site to see the full series. 

John Dunne, HSQE Director at Wates Group discusses where to start when creating a health and safety strategy. The Wates Group is one of the largest family-owned construction, property services and development companies in the United Kingdom. They have been an Airsweb customer since 2013.



Creating a health and safety strategy – where do you start?

‘Where do you start with a health, safety and environment and quality strategy? This is quite an interesting thing to consider because nobody really tells you how to start or where you go, but as safety practitioners we learn all about the theories, the knowledge, and the technical things we need to do your job, but no one ever really tells you how to start a campaign or launch a strategy. And for me, I think the best place to start is by setting an objective, a really clear objective. You can’t have a strategy without a clear objective – if you launch into a strategy without an objective, it will fail.’

What’s the next step?

‘The next phase once you have clearly defined your objective is to then work on your strategy. Your strategy, again, has to be really simple, it’s something that meets what you really set out to achieve, but it’s not so complicated that it sets you up to fail. When you’re developing a strategy, don’t go too far or don’t feel that you have to add too many things. As safety practitioners, we’re fantastic at padding things out, we always feel like we need to do more things but actually we don’t need to. The simplest strategies are the best.’

How do you ensure buy-in?

‘Once you’ve got your strategy, it’s clearly defined, nice and simple, and that’s what you’re going to work to – the next step is getting buy-in. A really important part of buy-in is getting the real guys involved. And when I say the real guys, these are the guys that really influence the people within the organization. Not the executive team, or the board, in my experience those guys are really easy to get on-board. In fact, in their position they should be thinking about these things anyway, these are the things they should be wanting to happen. I’m talking about the real guys, the real people that influence everybody else on site. Think about the project directors, think about the senior managers in an influencing role. You’ve got to get these guys on-board, and if you don’t get those guys on board then your strategy will be dead in the water.’

How do you spread the word?

‘Don’t beat about bush – really, this is your opportunity to go big and don’t hold back. For me, you’ve got to communicate, communicate, communicate. Tell people, tell them again, don’t be afraid to do that. I would say that you do a big launch, in my previous organizations we did a big launch, a big day, get everyone together, everyone involved and tell them all about it. And then what you do is you want those people to go forth and tell other people about it. I use the word evangelical a lot, you’ve got to spread the word. That’s the way you communicate your strategy, you get everyone involved, everyone being part of it and everyone understanding it, and don’t be afraid to do that. A lot of people have told me, certainly in Wates, that this current campaign is taking over everything else. But I don’t care, if you’re achieving what you set out to achieve, I don’t care what it’s taking over – that is my priority, and you need to make that other peoples' priority as well.'

What help should you seek?

‘You’ve got to rely on experts. As safety practitioners, we’re good, but we’re not good at everything. When you get people here involved to help you communicate, you’ve got to go find the real experts – they might be in the organization, or they might be outside. I’m talking learning and development experts, HR experts, communication experts, artistic publishers, anybody that can help you spread that message. And the more people the better!’

 How do you make your strategy standout?

‘It has to have its own brand. What I mean by that is an identity that sets itself apart from everything else. Think about Apple. Think about Coca-Cola. These are easily recognizable brands, and that is what you need for your strategy, a brand that you stick to…and you’ve got to be very disciplined. A lot of people say to me that I’m quite pedantic when it comes to our brand around our current campaign ‘We’re Safer Together’, but you have to be, I expect everyone even when they’re talking about ‘We’re Safer Together’, they use the right terminology.

 How do you measure success?

You want to see accident and incident rates improve when you’re looking at a health and safety campaign. But for me the most important measure of success is what conversation is going on, and how the conversation has changed. What I mean by that is that you need to be able to go anywhere within your organization and people are talking about your campaign and your strategy.’

Author Leslie Duroe

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