Access to safety talent is a global problem: here’s how your business can help
According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), 147 workers were killed in work-related accidents in 2018/19, while an additional 92 members of the public were killed due to work-related activity. The most common cause of death is a fall from height or being struck by a moving vehicle. In Ireland, figures from the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) suggest that in 2014, fines were levied against businesses found guilty of Health & Safety misconduct, totalling more than €293,900 and 32 prosecutions were made.
James Irwin, director at specialist Health, Safety and Sustainability recruitment firm, Irwin & Colton, suggests in a recent blog post that The perception among many is that sustainability and environment professionals are "nice to have" an “add on” rather than core to business profitability. Whereas in reality environment and sustainability are absolutely core to profitability.
So, with these unacceptable figures still on the rise, coupled with the global shortfall of safety talent, the question remains: how do responsible businesses attract and retain safety and health professionals?
Encourage existing safety professionals to stay longer within your organisation
Retention of existing professionals in this arena and cutting down on recruitment and training costs is always a favourable outcome. And, there are both some quick wins and longer-term strategies that your business can start to put in place to ensure this happens.
Demonstrate your commitment beyond compliance: Safety professionals need to be heard. They are the individuals in your business right now that can make the biggest improvements to your bottom line by significantly reducing your health and safety risks. But, they can only do their job effectively, if your business wholly commits to introducing a preventative environment, not just one that maintains minimal levels of compliance. This may mean a deeper look into your internal culture.
Show support from senior leadership: It’s a common theme among safety professionals that they don’t feel supported. Much like demonstrating a commitment to an environment that goes beyond compliance, support needs to filter from the top down. Be sure that your leaders are doing everything they can to show their support and commitment to a safety-first culture.
Beef up succession planning: A vital tool in the HR toolbox, and not just for safety professionals. Developing a leadership strategy that invests in staff development, promotes a united team, cross-trains and upskills your key talent, and removes the threat of indispensable employees, should all form part of your succession planning strategy.
Raise awareness of Health and Safety as a career path at an earlier age
The fact remains that when children are made aware of the career paths they could take, health and safety is simply not a sexy offering. However, on the flip side, with the rise in awareness of social responsibility and environmental impact, the graduate market for CSR related roles is more buoyant than ever before.
Perhaps this is simply a case of better marketing requirements in the safety arena?
Raising awareness of fields of study that promote healthy and sustainable workplaces should be high on the agenda for any safety-conscious firm; especially those that wish to fill their succession pipeline from the bottom up.
To help, your organisation could take part in career days at high schools and universities, offer graduate programmes and internships, and offer mentoring support to young people considering a safety-related career.
Plug the gap with freelancers and contractors
Of course, while access to safety talent is not a problem that will get better by itself, there are alternatives that your business can consider, to attract the right talent when you need it most.
In the rapidly changing world of work where the 9-5 is no longer the norm, many safety professionals are opting for a more flexible way of working and carving out a path for themselves as freelancers and contractors. And this is an excellent resource for time-poor businesses who need an expert pair of hands for shorter-term projects, or simply don’t have the budget for a full-time safety professional.