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The change agents of Health and Safety: Reloaded

A change agent of health and safety in superhero mode

Oprah says...

Oprah Winfrey once said: "Passion is energy: Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you". Now, I don't actually know what Oprah was talking about when she uttered that quote, (and possibly neither did she), but I am willing to bet £50 and a life's supply of PPE that she wasn't talking about health and safety at work. Health and safety has long been perceived as a regulatory obligation, existing in a space robbed of passion, surrounded by a culture and language that drains enthusiasm and kills engagement. The mere mention of the term H&S risks sucking the life out of a conversation as though a psychic vampire has just entered the room. Many people will have already checked out from this blog post, off to explore something with more pizazz. But those who have stayed to this point, well, they have something else about them: a curiosity and endurance that can make them invaluable to the profession. For these are the people that can change things. These are the people that can restore passion, ignite inspiration and foster a culture of proactive safety consciousness.

Show me the passion

The story starts with building a compelling, consistent, and possibly familiar narrative, mostly built around people being the solution, not the problem. Emphasizing the notion that every individual is a custodian of their well-being and that of their colleagues positions health and safety as a collective endeavour in which each person's actions contribute to a safer workplace ecosystem. The thing is that compelling narratives and H&S make for unusual bedfellows. Or so many people tell me.

Building this compelling narrative remains a key challenge for the profession. Incorporating modern communication channels is a key enabler of this. Leveraging digital platforms, creating informative podcasts, interactive webinars and visually appealing infographics can disseminate safety information effectively and enable impactful messaging. Alongside this, multimedia and the integration of gamification elements injects an element of competition, energy and, dare I say it, fun. Safety challenges, quizzes, and recognition for adhering to safety protocols can transform compliance into an engaging experience and foster a sense of achievement, motivating people to actively participate through meaningful dialogue. Coaching people through H&S issues can appear counter-intuitive in tell/do moments, but offers potentially stronger, longer, cultural benefits.

Alongside this, carefully targeted "precision strike" messages offer high impact. Collaboration with influencers or people of power from within the business can instill authenticity to a message. When respected colleagues champion safety practices, it resonates more profoundly (after all, it's one of the core principles of influence). Regular town hall meetings or forums led by safety experts and target community influencers provide opportunities for open discussions, and sharing success stories builds confidence and allows people to see possibilities where they might once have seen obstructions. These stories and experiences can inspire others to embrace safety as an integral part of their work identity. Again, conversations and dialogue - initiated by active safety managers - drive this home.

Visual cues and branding elements should be modern, evoking positivity and progress. Reimagined logos and slogans can capture the essence of a proactive safety culture. Don't be afraid to change things. Be like Elon. Dump the bird, and go X; it drives conversation and thereby awareness. The visual identity should convey the message that safety is not just a precaution but a driver of innovation and productivity. Think of your audience and apply their cultural filter. How might your message be adapted to suit their needs, not just yours?

Creating immersive experiences, such as virtual reality simulations or inductions transports employees into real-life scenarios, allowing them to comprehend potential risks and practice safe responses. This hands-on approach enhances understanding and reinforces the importance of safety measures. These things already exist, and whilst they might seem out of reach for some right now, the rise and speed of AI developments makes this an exciting area for future exploration.

But above all else, it's the quality of your people that matters most. Placing highly capable and influential people in H&S roles and supporting them with active programmes of development. Consider initiating quality mentorship programs that pair seasoned employees with newcomers. Such a move fosters a culture of shared learning, bolsters the sense of community and highlights the safe practices that reinforce the narrative safety is not solely a protocol - but a core aspect of being.

The guiding principle behind all this? Well, as Oprah said; feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you. Go for it. Infuse your work with purpose, participation, and positivity. Embrace dialogue and collaboration to position H&S as a tool that can inspire a workforce that is not only compliant but actively engaged in creating a high quality secure, thriving innovative and caring work environment.

Channel that passionate health and safety change agent. Channel your inner Oprah.

Nick at Poppyfish


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