Introduction

I lived in Sligo for over 6 years and Ben Bulben is one of my favourite images from the County. To me it has always represented something that is beautiful, ever changing (according to the seasons) yet steadfast and dependable. In many ways it is similar to health and safety in all workplaces.

I often deliver talks to other Safety professionals but I sometimes wonder if I am wasting my time as I know I am talking to the converted. Those of us in the health and safety profession need to move outside out comfort zones and talk to others in order to educate and influence them about what we are trying to achieve. One of the most daunting challenges is going before the Board to make a presentation to them.

When talking or presenting to the Board you need to be aware of the following issues:

their time is precious

they have lots of other pressing issues

we need to be brief

we need to talk their language.

we need to tell stories that resonate with them

Facts, Numbers and Statistics

Their language revolves around facts, numbers and statistics. They will want to hear about how you can save the company money, reduce accidents, have fewer interruptions to production, fewer or no claims, make best use of management time, create good publicity for the brand etc.

Don’t shoot the Messenger

Let the Board hear the bad news as well as the good. Then tell them what you are going to do about it. Sharing the bad news leads to positive action.   Fight your corner if they move to shoot the messenger.

We also need to link into how they feel about the company. Obviously they want the company to be successful, profitable and a place where people wish to work. Equally they are concerned about the brand and the reputation of the business as seen by the outside world.

Talk about human beings

So as well as providing them with details of all the wonderful health and safety programmes you have introduced and their positive impacts, you also need to talk about human beings who are at the heart of the business.

Tell them stories about your production operators who now go home on Fridays after an injury free week of work and have time to spend with their partners and children. Provide examples of initiatives taken that enhance safety at work and at home for your employees while doing DIY or going swimming with their children.

Share with them the story of the driver who was in a road traffic accident while at work 6 months ago who came back to work last week, to a different position, fully rehabilitated. Let them know that she suffered no loss of pay and what that has meant to her as a single parent. Talk about her level of motivation in her new job and her positive feelings about the company.

Efficient yet caring and fair

Try if you can to paint a vision of the company which is productive and efficient, yet caring and fair to its employees. Tell stories to convince the Board that this is worth spending time and money on replacing old equipment, providing training for management and employees, carrying out regular team based risk assessments and team building to develop an enviable safety culture. Outline how all of this delivers to the bottom line while improving the public image of the company so it is more attractive to customers, investors and potential employees.

Not just about share values

Do not be afraid to make the point to the Board that if they focus exclusively on increasing share values at the expense of the employee creating that share value then their success will be short lived….

Safety Champion

Having a safety champion on the Board is another key. Try to win over one Senior Director who takes a real interest in the safety and welfare of people and who makes health and safety performance personal. That may be the HR Director but it does not have to be.

I won over the rest

In one company I worked with I won over the Finance Director because I was able to clearly set out all of the losses arising from poor health and safety management and the complete absence of Safety Leadership. Once convinced that I could say the company money he paved the way for increased investment in health and safety because he could see the tangible savings. Once he got me into the room to present to the Board regularly my passion then won over the rest of them. I am all for passion as well as talent.

They can be leaders too

While with the Board, let them see you as a dynamic Safety Leader and challenged them to be leaders too. Explain that Safety Leadership isn’t just the exercise of authority, it is the building of mutual respect, interdependence and the rewarding of loyalty. Safety leadership is all about having a vision of where the company can ultimately go in protecting the most valuable asset – their people.

Share with them what Dr. Dominic Cooper (1) feels it takes to be a Safety Champion – he writes that it takes: – desire, dedication, determination, concentration & the will to win.

 

Most safety professionals I know have exactly those attributes.

References:

(1) Dr. Dominic Cooper – CEO of B-Safe Management Solutions