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How can Interim Health & Safety Consultants assist a sustainable business strategy?
An interview two health and safety managers on the the challenges faced by interim HSE staff.
The advantages of hiring interim consultants are clear, with such skills on offer as:
*A diverse range of experience in order to tackle problematic and non-compliant systems.
*Being able to devise structured training programmes to engage contractors (both local and international)
*Changing cultural working practices to enhance a safer working environment.
*In addition, as an external expert, they can bring a fresh pair of eyes and perspectives - not influenced by internal politics and cultural restraints.
We asked Pieter van Wyk and Shaun Wood for their insights on the challenges faced by interim HSE staff:
Pieter van Wyk: Pieter is a Health and Safety Manager with 21 years’ experience within the heavy industries, including oil & gas, chemical, steel manufacturing and coal mining. He has worked as both a contractor and employer, overseeing the work of ex-pats and local employees.
Shaun Wood: Shaun is a Health and Safety Manager with 20 years’ experience across oil & gas and open & closed mining sectors - with a strong emphasis on process plants and their compliance. He has a hands-on approach in relation to making site improvements - including constructing safety inspections, audit and compliance - and system/process improvements.
How important is HSE for a global company operating across various sites/mines?
Shaun Wood (SW): HSE is important as it affects the health, welfare and safety of a company’s workers. Being part of a global organisation requires you to show your contractors and people working for you that you care about them. It’s important to invest in them as individuals as well as the organisation.
Pieter van Wyk (PvW): In order for a global company to stay in the market and get new projects, HSE is one of the most important aspects to have in place. This ensures the company is able to successfully complete a project without any fatal or serious incidents - increasing global credibility as well as reducing their liabilities. During the bidding process for a new project the client will always look at your HSE performance. With a poor record you will not be considered as a possible contractor for the project and you can also be internationally black-listed - so it’s incredibly important.
Having worked as an interim consultant on various projects, what have been your key challenges faced when implementing new processes to raise compliance levels?
SW: The recurring challenges are normally: ignorance to the law, uninformed people and “we have always done it this way” old-school thinking. Change frightens people, so it’s important to manage that process effectively. Breakdowns in communication can be challenging. Senior management often understand the benefits of the investment, but a lack of communication filtering down through the organisation can allow resistance to change to creep in. Some stakeholders can be also be very set in their ways which means they can often need further convincing in regard to HSE investment.
PvW: One that stands out in my mind is “management of change”. Management often doesn’t like changes to systems already in place, and are consequently very sceptical about introducing new ideas or systems. You can often find that senior management will talk about changes, but don’t know where or how to implement them. There can often be significant short-sightedness in regards to investment, especially when it comes to investing in quality equipment. It is important to purchase good apparatus, as it is often more resilient and will last longer, and in the long- term, reduce cost.
As a contractor, are there challenges in influencing full-time staff?
SW: There are always challenges, but coming in from the outside you see things differently - perhaps issues that full- time staff may be too involved to see for themselves. You can also see areas of complacency within the site which on-site staff members may not notice - or may accept as the site’s culture.
PvW: I don’t think so, particularly in operation or production. They know that the contractor is coming in to repair a piece of broken equipment and it is important to get the plant or mine up and running quickly. You can be viewed as an asset as long as you lead by example and follow the basic rules. It is appreciated that you are not there to stop or close down the site.
What value do you feel an interim consultant brings to a site which is not satisfying international HSE compliance regulations in comparison to a permanent staff member?
SW: Interim consultants come in and assess with an external perspective what needs to be improved or changed and can put in place procedures and standards that benefit everybody. We can do a needs analysis and a risk assessment as we view and assess things from a ‘neutral’ standpoint.
PvW: You can separate yourself from all politics and clearly focus on the purpose you’re there for - dedicating your full energy to the task. You can look at the day-to-day management of processes/systems/
Acre is a leading recruiter in the field of environment and sustainability, and a specialist provider of contract and interim staff.
If you are interested in finding out more about the service we can provide, or how we can support you in developing your HSE departments, please contact Lydia Langford on 020 3170 8032 or email us on interim@acre-
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Acre was founded in 2003 to respond to the growing need for professionals in the Environment, Corporate Responsibility, Sustainability, Energy and Health & Safety sectors.