Employee Wellbeing: An ignored aspect of Safety?

Another post? What’s gotten into Professor Ike lately? (Big smile). Well I am on a 2 and a half weeks break from the School and have managed to squeeze in writing into my not so tight schedule. So right now, I am working a a few clients’ projects and my writing (seeing as it has been ignored the last couples of months).

So today, I want to discuss briefly about Health and Wellbeing as I know it is still an area many Safety professionals do not get into. Plus I have designed a presentation on it (Employee Wellbeing) to be delivered at a seminar. If you are interested in having me speak at your event, then feel free to contact me here or send an email to info@hsewise.org and I will respond within 48hours.

What does a Health and Safety Professional do? Generally, we are responsible for ensuring that all staff are committed to working safely and that the working environment is kept safe. As Health and Safety Professionals, we need to have an understanding of Health and Safety legislation in addition to knowing the roles and responsibilities of every staff member including the boss. Having this knowledge equips you with the knowledge of the risks that they face which in turn helps you assess how people work. To succeed at this, you need to make sure the staff have a good knowledge of their roles and responsibilities, their tasks and the risks that they face. Yes they must know the risks. Then you must train them or arrange for them to be trained if you lack training skills.

That’s generally speaking. We all know that no two Health and Safety roles are the same. Some of us are strictly into construction. Some, Oil and Gas. Some, manufacturing. The list goes on. We work in different industries so obviously our tasks vary – some might have the same name but the processes are usually different. A risk assessment done in a corporate office is going to be different from one done at a construction site.

A friend of mine also a Safety Consultant deal primarily with COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) and travels all over UK to implement their systems and train their customers on how to use them. Another friend deals with Process Safety. Some focus strictly on training. Then again, training varies across different industries. So you see, Health and Safety is so wide that no one person has knowledge of it all. The job really is that varied. That’s why we need to collaborate and be willing to share information.

With all this said, Health and Safety Professionals across the different industries focus primarily in one thing – ensuring staff work in a safe environment and safely too. Don’t you think we are forgetting something though? What happened to the Health part of Health and Safety. Why so much focus on Safety? Is it because that’s why we got into the profession in the first place? I know I did.

I studied Biomedical Science with the intention of studying Medicine once I graduated. In my 2nd year at Uni, I knew that wasn’t going to happen – I hated those school trips to the hospitals and labs. I hated looking into a microscope – it gave me real bad headache. Didn’t want to have to face illness and disease everyday of my previous life. So when I graduated, I dumped the idea of studying medicine. I stumbled on Health and Safety, fell in love with it and instead did a master’s in Occupational Health and Safety Management. That is where my journey into Health and Safety began. I wanted to make sure people worked in safe environments and went home in one piece – alive and well.

One day, I realised alot of people weren’t happy in their jobs and that somehow impacted their performance in a negative way. I would deliver training on Health and Safety or Stress management and my learners would just lament, lament and lament about their jobs. There was also talk of stress and anxiety. They proclaimed their employers didn’t care. So even with all the training and information, these people were possibly worse off than they were when they started their jobs. Why is this though?

Health and Safety Professionals speak more of Safety than of Health and Wellbeing. Employers worry about Safety and hardly about employee wellbeing. But why? Why dump the Health part of your job? That’s because many were not trained that way – all we hear of is Safety. One without good health or constantly fatigued cannot maintain Safety in any environment. Have you ever thought of how being stressed, ill or fatigued can lead to accidents? When you are tired or ill, you tend to make mistakes. So shouldn’t Health and Safety be intertwined? Shouldn’t the lack of one affect the other and the presence of one help the other thrive? Lack of good health and the presence of stress is the perfect recipe for disaster (e.g. accidents and sometimes suicide). By now it should be clear that Health is as important as Safety if not more important.

Employee wellbeing

Shouldn’t we care more about the people we work with beyond inspections and risk assessments and those big tasks aimed at preventing accidents? It shouldn’t be all about guarding machines, scaffolding, LockOut TagOut (big grammer – I really dislike this terminology but I use it because it’s necessary. I just wish there was a simpler way to refer to it apart from LOTO and Control of Hazardous Energy or has one been invented?

I love to study and research. I research because I want to find out things myself rather than just go with what others have found out especially if I don’t agree with it. The way I do research is to base my research on what’s already out there or something that crosses my mind. This is because something new always comes along and some findings somehow become extinct, while others last a lifetime. This is why “experts” have to always outdo themselves before someone else does it for them.

I have the desire to truly understand how people feel at work and how you can help them. I want to know what it takes to have not just a safe workplace but a healthful one. What influence does work have on the psychological wellbeing of people? I know a great deal but it’s not enough. I need to know more. It can only take lots of research and experience – my own research and experience.

What about you? Ever given Health and Wellbeing the kind of love you give to Safety?

#BeHSEWise

P.S. Just a reminder – If you are interested in having me speak at your event on Health and Wellbeing and/or Employee Wellbeing, then feel free to contact me here or send an email to info@hsewise.org and I will respond within 48hours. xo.