One day I was dining with a client who is a health and safety coordinator with a large company. I could only feel compassion for him on account of the situation he was in.
He described the company he worked for as a place where health and safety were a political matter, where greater importance was placed on getting a bonus than eliminating accidents, and were the health and safety coordinator was solely responsible for health and safety
I then recalled some of my own experiences, then those of friends and other clients that were similar to his own. They all had one thing in common, 666: a health and safety coordinator's personal hell!
The first 6: Elation
The first 6 of 666 represents your first six months at your new job. Following a screening interview during which they convinced you that health and safety was important to the company (even though CEO was absent because he was not available that day), you take up your new position. Your new boss (often the human resources manager) welcomes you and introduces you to your new colleagues.
You are pumped at the idea of finally joining the major leagues of prevention. So you're off and, strangely enough, there is a lot of room for improvement. You try to make yourself heard, but nothing is straightforward. That's strange… They seemed much more receptive during the interview.
You arrive at your first joint committee (without a mandate), and now you have the executives and the employees firing at you. Finally, you come out unharmed, but disillusioned; you are rather surprised to be leaving the meeting with a list of files that have been dragging for three years. So you ask yourself: "What is this mess?"
The second 6: Understanding
But you are thick skinned, so you keep your chin up and decide to do your best to right these wrongs. You find a few allies here as you work out the day to day issues. However, to get things moving - the important things - your messages must go through your boss (the human resources manager), who then passes it along to the steering committee.
Your boss gives you 15 minutes before he meets with the steering committee. However, his empty gaze as you expose the action plan's lack of rigour, the serious shortcomings of the lockout system, the requirements of the rescue workers in confined spaces and the company's serious legal breaches leaves you rather puzzled.
After the steering committee meeting, you hurry to your boss's office to see how your cases will be resolved, but ... No way! Nothing has been settled. There was not enough time to discuss your issues. Even though you insisted on their capital importance and you were well prepared. And they efficiently swept it under the rug.
The third 6: Disillusionment
Your thick skin is slowly becoming very thin. Any excuse is good to remain stagnant and change nothing. The first six months, you were enthusiastic; the next six months, you understood what you were dealing with and you wanted to change things. And during the following six months, you realize that nothing will change.
Rigour: nonexistent. Leadership: couldn't be any weaker, or even negative. Ownership by management: null, apart from your few allies who help you because they like you. Inconsistency is on the menu. You understand why your colleagues in quality and environment are tearing their hair out: they are enduring the same thing as you. You even begin to wonder if maybe the "loser" you replaced wasn't such a "loser" after all, and maybe he was actually pretty smart to have left for a better place.
The last 6 is disillusionment, and maybe the one where you will update your resume too.
A bit of comfort
The 666 is not an absolute rule and may vary depending on your situation and your level of tolerance. However, one thing is certain: if you are a highly-efficient individual, you will never be happy in this type of environment. I have caricatured it to illustrate its principle, but many of you can recognize yourselves.
Are there any solutions? Start by looking at your strategy. The first question to ask is whether what you are proposing is simple or complex. If it's complex, the chances of being backed up are nil - people are intimidated by complexity.
Therefore, as the saying goes, Rome was not built in one day. You have to learn to be patient. Replacing a single ingredient can sometimes change everything - it's up to you to find that ingredient.
This is all great, but you are still stuck in hell. Unfortunately, without the total commitment of your prevention department management, I can pretty much guarantee that you will remain in hell for all eternity! Unless there is a major change in management, your chances of success are rather slim. Keep in mind, however, that there is a positive side to everything and that you are currently learning how not to manage health and safety, which will be just as useful as learning what you should do.
If you decide to switch companies, before jumping back into the flames of hell, then prepare a few basic questions that will give you some good insights into the company's management of health and safety. For example, what are the highest risks within the company? What are this year's action plan's three most important elements? In practical terms, how did the management team exercise its leadership last year? Or even, simply: why was the CEO not present at the meeting?
If you feel just as lonely as Tom Hanks on his island in Castaway, don't worry: I can guarantee that there are dozens, if not hundreds, of other people in the same situation as you. If that's not enough, well, I'm here too, and you know that I like you.
A situation like this is difficult from a professional point of view. So I hope that you move from hell to heaven - that your hellish 666 turns into a lucky 777!