So. How’s 2020 going for you? It’s been a belter so far, hasn’t it? Started pretty badly, with bickering about Brexit even as we packed our metaphorical bags and moved out of Europe. Fell away in the first few months as it became clearer that a global pandemic couldn’t be avoided. And the least said about the months from March to July the better.

But hey, things are beginning to look up. We think. Hopefully. As we start to emerge from lockdown and try to find this ‘new normal’ everyone’s going on about, we’re actually faced with a massive opportunity — a chance to do things better.

If ever there was a teachable health and safety at work moment, this is it. If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that the need for business resilience is very, very real. And that to achieve it, we need to make resilience and recovery an integral part of future planning and activity. That means putting HSE first.

Think about it for a second. Health, safety and environment – the three factors that will be absolutely crucial to success in the post-lockdown era. If you want people to come back to work, or to join your team, you have to show that you can help them stay healthy. That you’ve made every effort to keep them safe. And that you’ve created an environment that reflects those aims.

Nick Pahl, CEO of the Society of Occupational Medicine, wrote in a recent article for Personnel Today (always useful background reading for someone in my line of work) that:

“OH services are key in supporting employees back to work and keeping them in work safely... Small and medium enterprises and the self-employed will need support to ensure safe work environments...

“There is now a unique opportunity for OH to positively influence the health and wellbeing of the working population and the prosperity of the nation.”

That, it seems, is a view shared by Mark Ormond, MD of culture change specialists Tribe. In a recent article by Safety & Health Practitioner, he highlighted the results of their research project, involving 125 different organisations looking at the impact of the pandemic. He said:

“This is a health and safety ‘moment’ – leaders have woken up to how important it could be if you get health and safety wrong and are working hard to make sure this doesn’t happen.”

So, coming out of lockdown, we’re emerging into an environment where people are more aware of the benefits of excellent HSE practice, and more willing to engage with it. For some that simply means ramping up or amending existing provisions. For others, it will mean more fundamental change — and that presents an additional challenge.

Because this year has been nothing but change. Brexit, trade deals, corona-crisis, working from home, new rules, new ways of life. So there are businesses out there which, understandably, feel nervous about adding to that.

In fact, in some ways, there’s no better time. People are getting used to fast changes and to adapting behaviours accordingly. Which means now’s the time to think about changes you might want to make in your business. People have got used to it. In fact, they’re expecting it. They’re even expecting it to adapt and change as the global situation evolves.

The key is going to be clarity — being clear what you expect from people, why you expect it and why it’s important to stay up to date with the rules.

And that, at last, brings me to where we come in. Because communication — particularly communication about health and safety — is what we do. It’s a skill that goes far beyond telling you what to say. It also helps you with:

Leadership: Ensuring everyone involved in management is informed about the goals you’re setting and the behaviours you require. Giving them the knowledge and support they need to lead by example.


Trust: Effectively communicating what you’re doing and what you’re asking others to do — and explaining why — creates trust across the whole team.


Empowerment: Giving all your people, at every level, responsibility for maintaining HSE and assurance that any concerns they raise or actions they take to support it will have your backing


Technology: Look at the technologies at your disposal. Are you making best use of them? We’ll help you find ways of communicating you probably haven’t thought of before — more important than ever in a world where so many more people will be working outside the main business base.


You don’t have to try to catch up with change. And you definitely shouldn’t let it catch up with you. Get ahead of it, plan for it, communicate what it’s all about. Make sure it’s a change for the better.

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