I was recently asked by a close former colleague to assist him in the temporary cover as the Manager of a new large superquarry in the UK. Many of the people within my inner circle of friends and colleagues initially questioned my decision to take on the role, for me it was an easy choice. Firstly, when a good friend asks for your help you should undoubtedly try your utmost to assist them in finding solutions to their problems. However having been performing the role for a few weeks now there are some other obvious benefits of ‘Going back to the shop floor’ and re-sharpening your own personal saw.
The role provided a vital opportunity to help build on the safety skills of not only the team of direct reports within the project, but also provided an excellent opportunity to spend some quality time with managers, supervisors and employees of our chosen contractor to complete the works. This has mutual benefits for both me as the coach and to them during the time we spend together.
It is fair to say that I have learnt so much in such as short period, both within the sharpening of my own technical skill, but also through the listening and understanding of each persons specific role and duties. This may seem incredibly obvious to do this, but in my experience is sadly lacking in many organisations. By carrying out the jobs some of the supervisors are expected to complete I could quickly evaluate the resource allocation we have for the site, the training needs, the systems and processes which were expected to be completed at both local and corporate level and most importantly building relationships and checking morale levels. This approach will allow us to tailor the short, medium and long term objectives for both the project and for individuals.
OK so you might be thinking – increase your own technical skill, sharpen your saw – what’s all this about? It’s quite simple really, as safety professionals we can often become dragged into the head office syndrome of producing systems to satisfy our ever growing internal health and safety management system, but can often take our eye off the most important component – our internal ‘customer’ or management team. It is essential we build information to match their needs and capabilities. I have the opportunity to provide a fine example here – I was recently asked my opinion of a report produced by an internal specialist, the report itself had excellent content with some clear advice for actions to take in order to proactively reduce the risks associated with these particular activities. But, the report was so technical, if I’m brutally honest it lost me (and I have a degree in the associated subject) so what chance does a regular manager or supervisor have of working with this? The honest answer is they don’t. Many put it on the shelf and are too embarrassed or afraid to ask, so many of essential components within are often not implemented.
So my message from all this – Allocate some quality time to go back to the shop floor to work with your team completing a range of activities, not just a quick safety observation tour, spend at least half a day or a day with them. I promise you it will be the best few hours you allocate for your 2016 safety improvement strategy