First Steps in a New Safety Job

First Steps New Job Basic

By the late George Robotham

An inexperienced OHS person recently asked me what they should do when starting in a new OHS position. Rightly or wrongly here is what I told her-

Talk to the senior leaders about what they want / need / expect. Bear in mind what they say will probably reflect a strategic view and you will need input from workers and supervisors to get the operational view. Get management suggestions for improvement. Ask leaders what they do to implement safety and what their successes and failures have been.

Meet with the safety team if there is one. Gauge their capacity and understand their issues. You may wish to have a team building activity.

Examine and evaluate the OHS paper trail-Policy, procedure, accident investigation reports, minutes of safety meetings, minutes of safety committee meetings etc.

Examine previous audit reports.

Send out a self introduction with some important safety messages

Spend sufficient time in the field to build relationships and understand the issues.

Conduct force-field analysis with a cross section of employees. A separate one with senior management may be the starting point

It may be decided to carry out a new audit

Carry out a safety learning needs analysis

Speak to the regulator, unions and outside stakeholders

Based on above develop an OHS management plan for discussion with management, approval and communication with the workforce.

Implement / review / evaluate the OHS management plan

Refer to First Steps New Job Summary and What Makes a Safety Management System Fly for further detail

George Robotham

George Robotham

George was a Legend in the Safety World who passed away in Sept 2013 but left us with a great legacy
George Robotham
I have worked in OHS for most of my working life, many years in the mining industry including over 10 years in a corporate OHS role with BHP. Since leaving the mining industry I have worked in a variety of safety roles with a variety of employers, large & small, in a variety of industries. I was associated with my first workplace fatality at age 21, the girl involved was young, intelligent, vivacious and friendly. Such a waste! I was the first on the scene and tried to comfort her and tend to her injuries. She said to me “George, please do not let me die” We put her on the aerial ambulance to Rockhampton base hospital where she died the next day. I do not mind telling you that knocked me around for awhile. Since then I have helped my employers cope with the aftermath of 12 fatalities and 2 other life-altering events. The section "Why do Occupational Health & Safety" provides further detail but in summary, poor safety is simply very expensive and also has a massive humanitarian cost. My qualifications include a certificate I.V. in Workplace Training and Assessment, a Diploma in Frontline Management, a Diploma in Training & Assessment Systems, a Bachelor of Education (Adult & Workplace Education) , a Grad. Cert. in Management of Organisational Change and a Graduate Diploma in Occupational Hazard Management. I am currently studying towards a Masters in Business Leadership. Up until recently I had been a Chartered Fellow of the Safety Institute of Australia for 10 years and a member for about 30 years. My interest is in non-traditional methods of driving organisational change in OHS and I have what I believe is a healthy dis-respect for many common approaches to OHS Management and OHS Training. I hold what I believe is a well-founded perception that many of the things safety people and management do in safety are “displacement activities” (Displacement activities are things we do, things we put a lot of energy into, but which when we examine them closely there is no valid reason for doing them). My managerial and leadership roles in OHS have exposed me to a range of management techniques that are relevant to Business Improvement. In particular I am a strong supporter of continuous improvement and quality management approaches to business. I believe leadership is the often forgotten key to excellence in most aspects of life. I hold the Australian Defence Medal and am a J.P.(Qualified). I have many fond memories of my time playing Rugby Union when I was a young bloke.

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