My work brings me into contact with many companies, big and small. Some have well developed health and safety systems and some are only starting.  I work with them wherever they are on the road to safety excellence to bring them further along and ultimately to protect their employees from harm.  In all cases I only go in when I am invited to work with them.  However some of them think they are ready to actively manage health and safety when they are not.

Not being ready

This “not being ready” condition can arise because: they were told to bring me in, their Insurance Company demanded that they be audited, their owners wanted a health and safety review done or they are reacting to a claim or a serious incident.  So I go in and do the audit or the review, come up with detailed recommendations and issue them to the client.  In many cases they act on all of them over time and the systems improve but in others they simply do nothing.

No progress

I was with a client recently that I had audited back in 2016 and despite emails back and forth re progress, when I visited them this week I discovered that they had in effect done nothing. They had no excuses other than that budgets had been tight and with some money available now they would begin to implement my recommendations.

Review again in 2019

Please note that in all cases I still get paid but the value of what I am trying to do with the client is being wasted.  So I took the client to task and told him that if I was marking him in the Leaving Certificate he would get a D minus. We agreed that progress has to begin immediately and that we will not leave it one or two years to review the audit items but I will be back in January 2019 to review it all again.  I did try to initiate a monthly phone call review but he was not interested in that.

Not the Enemy

He realises that some of the issues are serious, others are less so.  I had to point out to him that I am not the enemy and that I am trying to keep him out of trouble and ultimately protect his staff and customers which he fully accepted.  In the past I have literally held the hands of Managers in terms of showing them and demonstrating to them how to manage health and safety in their business.  I have no difficulty going back to basics and developing their knowledge over time.  My investment of time and expertise always pays off.

Angry and disappointed

When I left him I was angry and ultimately disappointed that he had made so little progress.  I pride myself in bringing all of my clients to a level where health and safety is well managed and is fully mainstreamed into their daily operations.  If any of my clients gets into trouble (in terms of a serious incident or fatality) I take it personally.

Not at fault

Recently another client of mine did have a fatality on their premises involving a customer and an escalator.  After investigation the conclusion was that it was a sad case of human error on the part of the man who died and the premises was found to be well managed and not at fault in any way. That client had over many years of my audits, implemented the systems I had recommended and had kept meticulous records which all assisted in proving they were managing health and safety effectively.

So I believe that timing is everything.  Not all clients are basically ready to make the changes we need them to make.  No amount of auditing, training or persuasion seems to work. But as with all good health and safety practitioners, I will carry on and will not give up.

There is a saying, alternately attributed to Buddha Siddhartha Guatama Shakyamuni and the Theosophists, that goes: When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. Regardless of who came up with it, I think it’s a key concept to keep in mind when talking about individual change management.  So some of my clients (students) may not be ready.