Safety coaches support their colleagues to find the best solutions to their health and safety problems. They use highly-developed questioning and listening skills to help colleagues explore options and it’s the coach’s curiosity that drives this exploration.
But coaching is a development technique too, it’s not just about problem solving. If it were, the coach’s curiosity would be firmly focused on all of the information needed to fix the issue. When the objective is to help the coachee solve the problem in a way that supports their development however, the coach’s curiosity is focused in a way that is subtly different.
Let’s consider the example of a supervisor who asks for support about the use of a hazardous substance. Clearly the practitioner is interested in the substance and what the Safety Data Sheet says and all the other relevant factors that affect the risk assessment (including the COSHH assessment if UK legislation applies). But a practitioner who is a coach is interested first and foremost in supporting the supervisor to find the best, most practicable solution for him/herself. This means being curious about their knowledge and understanding of how to obtain and analyse the information required, the operational constraints and the practical implications of the recommendations. The coach’s curiosity is focused mainly on the supervisor and the operation, rather than the substance.
The sorts of questions a safety coach might ask in this situation are: –
- what do you know about the substance?
- where could you find more information?
- what’s the information telling you?
- how does this translate to your situation?
- what are the implications of this information for you?
This isn’t to suggest that there is no obligation on the practitioner with regard to legal compliance and standards etc. After all, this is the greater knowledge and understanding the practitioner brings to the situation. A practitioner who is a coach however, is equally concerned with the supervisor’s personal development.
This isn’t easy but it’s the sort of mouth-watering proposition that gets some of us out of bed in the morning.