How to collaborate

In many organisations safety people are prized for their technical expertise. They know about the law and about standards and they have experience of how other organisations have solved problems. Consequently they are the ‘go to’ people whenever a safety problem arises.

But what happens when the safety practitioner doesn’t have the solution to the problem? Or perhaps the solution they’re familiar with doesn’t suit a particular situation. What happens then?

In cases like this especially, a collaborative approach is required. The safety person brings his/her knowledge and experience to the conversation but so do others bring theirs – the duty holder for example, who must take ownership for the solution ultimately.

The very best safety practitioners are collaborative. They’re able to put themselves in the duty-holder’s position and understand how operational constraints influence the choice of solutions. And through skillful questioning and listening they’re able to support their colleagues in an examination of the problem in order to find the best solution for the situation. The skills they use are called coaching skills.

According to Janice Caplan, “a coach is a collaborative partner who works with the learner to help them achieve goals, solve problems, learn and develop.” 

We believe that’s a pretty good definition of a safety practitioner too. What do you think?

This is why we’ve been promoting coaching skills for safety practitioners and why we developed IOSH Approved Coaching for safety. Originally it was to help safety people learn how to be effective collaborators but increasingly, there are almost as many non-safety people attending as there are safety advisers. If you think about it, this makes perfect sense. Gradually, more and more organisations are realising that if they’re to have the sort of safety culture they aspire to have, all managers need to be de facto safety advisers and they too need a collaborative approach.

If you agree with us that safety people should be collaborative, then we think you’ll agree also that the case for developing their coaching skills is both obvious and compelling.

Thanks for reading.

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