|Trish Ennis, CSP, ARM|
- develop valuable leadership skills that are transferable to the workplace;
- network with other safety leaders to find solutions to their latest challenges;
- share best practices and meet key Society leaders.
My first observation is that SH&E professionals have transformed from being solely technical advisors to being influencers. Management expert Kenneth Blanchard once said, “The key to successful leadership is influence, not authority.” My experience suggests he is correct. Management’s involvement in safety leadership remains paramount, but high-performing OSH professionals recognize the importance of influencing key constituencies. Understanding and applying techniques and strategies derived from current research on influence can help each of us expand our leadership capabilities.
My second observation is that to be effective leaders we must look beyond our own workplaces. We face new challenges related to global supply chains, temporary workers, a mobile workforce, and expectations to improve employee safety and wellness. From a leadership perspective, these developments present us with opportunities to find new solutions, build new coalitions and challenge the status quo.
Consider, for example, OSH issues related to the global supply chain. Of the four worst tragedies in the history of the supply chain, three of the worst have happened in the past 2 years. Over the years, many of us have grown desensitized to news of worker deaths in developing countries, where many of the products we purchase and use each day are manufactured. Yet, these deaths come at a huge price. As International Labor Organization reports:
Deaths and injuries take a particularly heavy toll in developing countries, where a large part of the population is engaged in hazardous activities. . . . Throughout the world, the poorest and least protected, often women, children and migrants, are among the most affected.
ASSE is leading the charge to elevate safety as a key component of sustainability initiatives that many corporate boards worldwide support. In May 2014, ASSE met with representatives of the Bangladesh and U.S. governments, garment industry groups and other stakeholders to discuss ways to improve safety in the supply chain. In August, at the XX World Congress on Safety and Health at Work, Center for Safety and Health Sustainability, which was founded by ASSE, Canadian Society of Safety Engineering and Institution of Occupational Safety and Health, delivered a well-received symposium on building a sustainable culture of prevention in the supply chain.
Such efforts challenge the long-held assumption that worker deaths in the supply chain are a cost of doing business. We all must examine our organization’s external touch points and consider whether we are sufficiently engaged to successfully manage those risks.
My third observation is that safety leadership also entails taking a lead in advancing the OSH profession. To become recognized leaders, we must elevate the status of our profession by better educating the business community about the value we bring to organizations in areas such as risk, productivity, employee engagement and culture, and sustainability. To do so, we must expand our knowledge into new areas such as negotiations, finance, project management, and risk assessment and risk management.
By increasing our knowledge and skills in all of these areas, we can demonstrate our unique abilities to manage change, resolve conflict and produce results. By continuously transforming our practice and our profession, we can engage our senior management teams and deliver effective solutions.