Health and safety practitioners, also known as health and safety officers, managers, advisers or consultants, seek to minimise the risk of injury and ill health at work. The role of a health and safety practitioner is to provide advice on planning, implementing, monitoring and reviewing protective and preventative health, safety and welfare measures.
Practitioners work in a broad range of industries, from multinationals to small consultancies, operating at advisory, operational level to strategic leadership roles, with the aim to protect; employees, employers and third parties. By educating colleagues and setting procedures to be followed, they aim to build a culture of health and safety in the workplace, supporting management in achieving their duties and monitor the effectiveness of actions to meet compliance.
Many companies describe safety as their top priority, but does that mean that safety is a value for their organisation. In a struggling global economy which is placing pressure on organisations to cut costs, the role of safety must contribute towards the economic and operational values of the business. Particularly in an era of deregulation, globalization, economic rollercoasters and changing workforces/location landscapes.
Organisations can be classified based on the maturity of their approach to managing OHS. A much-used classification identifies five stages in development:
- Pathological: does not care about safety, conceals accidents and breaches of OHS regulation
- Reactive: cares about safety only after something goes wrong
- Calculative/bureaucratic: cares about safety in a rule-bound way, if it can be shown to be cost-neutral or advantageous
- Proactive: cares about safety, makes plans in advance to achieve it and seeks innovative strategies, beyond inflexible rules, to achieve it
- Generative: gives priority to safety; fully understands the interactions between social and technical aspects of work and how OHS can be integrated with other imperatives
Source: Borys, D (2014) ‘The Value Proposition for the Occupational Health and Safety Professional: A Literature Review’ Available from: http://inshpo.org/docs/INSHPO_OSH_prof_lit_review_online_0914.pdf
It is a general objective of all health and safety professionals to assist their organisation to move up the hierarchy.