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How to pick the best safety supervisor for your project ?

Updated: Sep 1, 2020

How to pick the best safety supervisor for your project ?

This is maybe a question that you will ask yourself when hiring a new safety professional for your upcoming project. But the question that could come up to mind is whether you’re looking for the right criteria when hiring that safety help.

And there’s something striking about it. Not always, but in many occasions when I meet up with a project leader or the responsible for hiring they ask me for a ‘strong’ personality. It seems that people on their construction site needs some firm guidance. The question is raised to have someone besides them that is able to respond in a more than assertive manner and who is able to control the group of people with whom they work with. And these questions are posed in an agreeable way without any connotation.

However, when some thought is giving to this, some strange questions can be asked. Is it really such a chaos out there that a strong hand is needed ? That must be devastating. What is going on that a dramatic intervention seems obvious. Moreover, there’s no one asking himself the question if such profile is really appropriate. But fair is fair, I do get the importance of striving for authority.

I do see that the behavior of a safety professional is a key element in obtaining safety success on site. The ability to adapt to his or her environment and take the right actions and behave in the best manner is what makes the difference. It is also why we test safety professionals on their HSE strategy. It is important to know what the basic set values are of a safety professional. What is his vision and how does he applies this in field. Nevertheless, this does not superseed some basics. The need for some basic training is vital. And let us not forget the legal requirements. According to the risks and number of people in your organisation a certain diploma is needed.

There’s no way around it. It is the law. Although some do not respect, how can anyone be at a leading HSE position without any knowledge of local legislation ? Even when backed by a legal department.

But more, there’s on one hand the culture that resides with the Client side and the beliefs and norms of a safety professional and by logic both need to be in line. So in the example given of the ‘strong’ profile, it does wonder in which kind of environment one would work. It gives the impression that a strong leadership is needed due to lacking basic standards on the project. And that would sometimes astonish me. So it indicatest hat this so wanted profile is probably not the right pick. What is then at play ?

When one looks to todays common practices, you’ll see that a more intelligent or soft approach is promoted. This gives in a higher yield in terms of safety. The impact on people is way higher and lasting. It needs empathy from the people at work, experience of the task and problem solving thinking. An approach that is way more complex than the first suggested hard dictature. It may come off as soft, but towards effect the outcome is day and night difference. The general idea goes more onto convincing people than to impose people instructions. Thus this means that the safety professional that you’re looking for should have this compentency of convincing by empathy. Easy to understand that with a hard liner this is less obvious.

Yet, the depictured image is still ambivalent while reality is more complex. I rather believe in stages of where an organisation is. A bit refering to the Bradley curve you can see that the stages of a workenvironment changes depending on their influence from top m

anagement. Does one execute a task because it is imposed upon him or does he do it because out of conviction ? And there’s a whole range of emotions that will lead to certain behavior of people. Is the population rather reactive to safety rules and regulations or did the population evolve to a more sensible interdependent state. Interdependent. The word is out. Stephen Covey’s philosophy that gets applied on the work floor. It is not dependent nor independent. It is the inbetween., it is the stage where independent people still take care of the other co-worker. Interdependent. People in an interdependent mode are triggered to safety in a more positive manner. If you would use the hardliner safety person it would have the complete opposite effect. The population is already convinced of safety and is knowledgeable of the regulations. A safety person with more an empathic feel, and who is very knowledgeable on the how and why of safety regulations will be way more of benefit for the work environment. The needed HSE profile seems to be completely different that the so wanted hardliner. So the type of you desired HSE profile does not only depend on his qualifications and experience but very much towards his relationship of his HSE strategy and the stage the work environment is in. In case safety is not fully implemented and we are still into the reactive phase than a safety supervisor with a strong communication on basic rules will have the best impact. But if it would appear that the environment evolved to a more adult stage such as independent stage, the stimulus to use will be differrent. Empathy and a higher safety knowledge will be more needed. So easy to understand that when choosing the best pick out of your stack of safety persons cv’s, the first questions to ask are not on the desired person but on where you are with safety. On which stage you have reached. Out of that, you will be able to define the best profile that would obtain synergy with your work force.Checking the legal requirements will give you an idea on the needed education and years of experience. By putting the importance of the HSE strategy of the profile first e.g. in relation to his working environment a better outcome can be reached.

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