So far we have focused on safety-leadership activity menus for front-line employees, supervisors and senior facility leadership because they are the primary owners of the safety culture. But if employees are taking over and owning safety, the safety programs and the safety culture, what becomes the role of EHS?
In this model EHS moves necessarily from the role of the “safety staff” to the role of “safety-culture stewards.” Instead of being in the weeds with policy, they oversee the change effort, its effectiveness and integrity, and the well-being of the culture as a whole.
On the process and policy side, they conduct internal reviews to ensure everything is well managed and on the up and up. The coordinate the safety committees and taskforces, and periodically audit them to ensure program integrity. They manage the effort and the change at a high level without too much interference. Their job is to be the eyes and ears of the safety culture for the facility leadership.
On the employee side, they ensure employees are actively participating in the culture, feel empowered to lead the culture, and are provided with ample opportunities to do just that. They are there to help supervisors identify the natural champions of the culture and get them activated. In short they are there to help build ownership for the culture on the floor.
On the supervisor side they observe safety-culture related interactions between supervisors and their direct reports, and they coach them on improvements. They observe and coach the quality of the safety communication that takes place in shift meetings, toolbox meetings, plant meetings, and staff meetings. They check in with supervisors to see from their perspective how the culture is progressing and what might need to be adjusted.
On the leadership side, they provide guidance to facility leadership on what needs to happen next with the culture to bring it in line with the safety-culture vision. They are there to help leadership message the safety culture, model that culture, and measure its success. In short, they are partners and guides to help leadership steer the culture in the right direction.
The point is, the role of EHS necessarily evolves to fit the present state of the safety culture within the larger goal of actualizing the future state of the safety vision. The role may be a fluctuating one, but it is primarily one of a gardener or farmer. They are there to nurture the culture, check in to see that conditions are right, and ensure everyone has what they need for the culture to grow in healthy ways.
That’s all for this edition of Recordable INSIGHTS. Until next time.