Ian Taylor, NEBOSH chief executive talked to Pipeline Magazine about the importance of leadership in getting the right HSE message across
Why is leadership so important when it comes to health and safety in the process industries?
A failure in leadership has been at the route of many of the most serious incidents in the process industries. Most often it has been found that these errors come down to a combination of complacency throughout the organisation; lack of competence; failing to learn from previous incidents; poor communication; lack of clarity on particular roles and poor change management
Leadership is clearly a key part of a positive culture as it sets and drives a vision. Clear leadership from the top also sets a strong and visible example both inside and outside the organisation to employees and contractors as well as to regulators and shareholders.
What are the key leadership values that need to be taken into account?
Great Britain’s regulator, the Health and Safety Executive, has published a leadership model which suggests that there are five key leadership values that are built on two supporting foundations. It was upon this research and model that the NEBOSH HSE Certificate in Health and Safety Leadership Excellence was developed.
Five key values:
• Building and promoting a shared health and safety vision
• Being considerate and responsive
• Providing support and recognition
• Promoting fairness and trust in relationships with others – developing a ‘just culture’
• Encouraging improvement, innovation and learning
Two supporting foundations:
• Being an effective role model
• Clear two way communication
How does someone know if they are a good leader?
It is often said that leaders are born and not made. This is not entirely true - leadership behaviours can be taught and there are some key things to keep in mind:
• Evaluation of your leadership performance is very important
• Perception of self may be different to that of other people
• Ask the workforce, but ask the right questions
• Listen to and act on any criticism (don’t dismiss the comments if you don’t like what you hear!)
• Carry out self-evaluation (CPD)
• Leaders should strive to always improve their leadership performance
What are the key messages that business leaders in the region need to be looking out for?
Focus on developing a positive health and safety culture and becoming a high reliability organisation (one that avoids catastrophes in an environment where normal accidents can be expected due to risk factors and complexity), ensuring those in your business understand what health and safety culture means and what you, as a leader, expect from your business.
Understand the importance of leadership for setting and driving a positive health and safety culture.
Be fully informed: measure the right things. You need to understand what you are measuring; whether the KPIs you have adopted are measuring the right things and will they tell you early enough if things are going wrong. Be careful you are not measuring the trivial and this is then masking or burying the important data
Ensure you lead for health AND safety; acting as that role model consistently and that you are paying due importance to health issues as well as safety.
Continue to reflect on your competence as a leader. It’s important that you reflect on your performance on a regular basis and you may find 360 degree performance assessments useful in this regard. It’s also important that you learn from your peers and others outside of your organisation.
What are the business benefits for having a working health and safety culture?
The benefits are immense in terms of both tangible (e.g. productivity) and intangible (e.g. increased trust). It’s useful to remember that the potential costs of failure are also equally high.