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Qualities and attributes of an occupational health and safety practitioner

Qualities and attributes of an occupational health and safety practitioner

Qualities and attributes of an occupational health and safety practitioner

It is legal requirement in almost all countries that organizations (considering the number of employees/workers) must have access to appropriate competent people to give them health and safety advice. These safety specialists or "safety practitioners" may work within the organization or may be brought in from outside as consultant. They are responsible for giving correct advice to the organization so that the organization can comply its legal obligations and achieve its policy objective & targets.

Roles and responsibilities of health and safety practitioner

Providing advice and guidance in implementation of Safety Management System & health and safety standards.
Promoting a positive health and safety culture in organization to achieve the target of zero incidents
Advising management on accident prevention, accident reporting and investigations to decide the controls and to prevent the recurrences.
Advise management for developing and implementing policy for establishing positive safety culture.
Directing the development of adequate risk assessments and managing the risk at ALARP.
Help management to identify the training needs based on training need identification. Also guiding for planning the training schedule and development of training modules.
Monitoring health and safety performance through leading and lagging indicators and highlighting the area for concerns for continual improvement.
Other than above, He must guide management to maintain below health and safety records
  1. PPEs issue register.
  2. Record of statutory training and skill development.
  3. Record of workers competency.
  4. Record of workers health and safety violation and disciplinary actions.
  5. Record of workers medical fitness and periodic medical check.
  6. Record of Hazard and risk assessment and communication to workers, etc

Occupational Health and Safety practitioner’s competency

Safety practitioners must be qualified and experienced in health and safety. Below framework of his competency is suggested.
Occupational Health and Safety practitioner’s competency
Occupational Health and Safety practitioner’s competency

Qualities and attributes of a safety practitioner

Safety practitioner should be a good Leader
The Safety practitioner must be a good leader in meeting organizational health and safety requirements by leading and implementing the operational plan. He must motivate the workforce by sharing his knowledge on health and safety issues and managing risks in the workplace. He must advise management on the efficient use of resources in order to develop a positive safety culture and prevent incidents. He must act as a leader and set an example by following a safety commitment to workers, employees and managers. He should be open to advise people on safety issues and help them decide on controls to eliminate the hazards.
Be a role model for others to be inspired by you. Develop discipline yourself. Take responsibility for your actions. Work with determination and passion.
He must be visible and demonstrate confidence to influence the workforce by providing quick feedback on all safety related issues, ie a substandard act and substandard conditions can really have an impact on organizational performance. He needs to make frequent site visits to the workplace and connect with people to build a great relationship with them, which will build trust between the two.
The Safety practitioner should be a good listener to manage conflicts and especially as a leader to encourage formal discussion, rather than providing a quick and ineffective response, which can motivate the people in the workplace and will provide an opportunity immediate to work on ambiguities. He must collect comments from people in the workplace to understand the real risk and the difficulties in deciding on control over hazards, then assess the situation to advise correctly. He must be dominant in meetings but be respectful because he must deal with many peoples at all levels.
The safety practitioner should assist management in identifying the health and safety goals and associated resources required, including procedures and practices for achieving them within the time frame. He must advise the management and the people in the workplace for development of management programs to achieve the objective and the targets set.
He must monitor changes in the installation (equipment, chemical, process, technology, administrative, etc.) and assess the impact on current risk management. All changes must be ensured to be communicated to the people likely to be affected by these changes by ensuring the implementation of the change management procedure.

Safety practitioner must be strategic and a good planner

Safety practitioner should be a good planner
Safety practitioner should be a good planner

The safety practitioner must establish priorities in accordance with the health and safety management policy, objectives and targets to ensure the effective implementation of the controls decided in the risk assessment. It must promote innovation in the field of Health and safety for a sustainable business and enhance the brand of the organization. He must advise management to identify and maintain good relationships with internal and external stakeholders in order to build a good reputation in the market. He must build and maintain the positive relationship with the statutory and regulatory bodies for the benefit of the company. This will assist management in effectively complying with all legal, statutory and other health and safety requirements.
By giving correct technical recommendations, he can build a good reputation with superiors or managers, then everyone will trust him, this will certainly contribute to developing a positive safety culture in an organization. Be legitimate on good safety suggestions, it should be practical and profitable because most managers understand the language, that is financial language. Present any safety suggestions or recommendations in financial terms so that management can easily understand and convince that implementing these safety suggestions is cost effective and helps increase revenue.
So, summarizing all the above, financial language is very important in convincing senior management. As a rule, management and line managers understand only one language, viz. financial language. To change the priority, safety recommendations / communications can be presented in terms of cost-effectiveness. Connect each threat to safety with financial implications and present it to management. Safety recommendations can be presented along with a cost comparison. this applies to both the positive and the negative. What will be the financial loss if you do not take corrective action regarding a unsafe act and unsafe conditions? What would be the financial benefits to the business if we took corrective action against unsafe practices. When considering high potential near misses or any unwanted incidents, compare losses to investment. Indirect losses must be presented in terms of tangible financial costs.
The safety practitioner must be able to influence senior management to fulfill their commitment to safety, if safety is not a real priority for them, otherwise accidents and incidents are not preventable.

Safety practitioner must have sound knowledge on legal requirements

Safety practitioner must have sound knowledge on legal requirements
The health and safety practitioner should advise management on legal matters, so they should be fully aware of this and be able to interpret it correctly. Without having a good knowledge of HSE legal standards, he cannot guide management for the development of a health and safety policy consistent with the corporate strategy and culture.
He must be able to develop a legal register which guides the management to develop a positive culture in an organization and helps to comply effectively with all the legal obligations applicable for a sustainable business. The safety practitioner should be a good auditor / proficient to monitor the health of the legal compliance management system, this will help manage any threat to the business.

Safety practitioner must be expert in OHS risk management

There can be a threat to businesses regarding non-compliance with legal obligations, operational risks, hidden internal and external risks, on-site and off-site emergencies and any unexpected changes in the organizational structure. Therefore, the safety professional must be proactive in identifying and acting on these business threats related to safety issues.
There are several methods available around the world for hazard identification and risk assessment, but the safety specialist must be able to identify the right one for their business. He must be an expert in risk prioritization and suggest to the management profitable controls to minimize the risk at ALRP level.
As the risk register is a dynamic document, the safety specialist must monitor its relevance and review and update timely with any change in operation, installation, technical changes or administrative changes. He must be able to escalate unforeseen risks for management with appropriate corrective actions based on a systematic analysis of the data.

Safety practitioner must be expert in incident investigation

The Safety specialist must be able to develop and implement the robust incident reporting and investigation procedure. It must be a management procedure because it applies to all the disciplines of the organization. There are several techniques available in the world for the investigation of incidents, but the safety specialty must decide which technique is most appropriate for its organization. He must be able to identify direct and indirect losses related to each incident and be able to present appropriate effective corrective measures to management in a cost-effective manner. He must have good relations with regulatory bodies to help the organization to report the major accident and any dangerous occurrences. He should be able to develop and implement an emergency management and response plan.

Safety practitioner must able to develop the positive safety culture

Safety practitioner must able to develop the positive safety culture
Safety practitioner must able to develop the positive safety culture

Safety is parallel to the operation of the company; it must be able to work in a transversal way to support the productivity of the company and ensure health and safety too. He must understand workers' perceptions and help management identify the criteria for competency in selecting the right contractors. He should be able to identify basic employees and workers' welfare facilities, viz. potable water, chek and change room, rest room, washroom, drinking water, dining room, decontamination room, toilet, etc. He must educate workers on their well-being and maintain hygiene in order to prevent occupational diseases and control other physical risks. He must be able to develop and implement the criteria of competence of contract workers, develop modules to identify training needs and training modules. He must be proactive in identifying any developments in new legislation, technology, etc. which could affect business risk management and should recommend the latest requirement, effective changes to the health and safety management system and risk control strategies.

Safety specialist must able to manage the interested parties

He must be able to identify all the appropriate organizational stakeholders and gather the needs and expectations for better management planning by creating a strong network. Provide training and educate staff on the organization's safety management system, including safe work practices, policies and procedures. If necessary, he has to stop work for a while, if it seems dangerous and must rigid to his decision till correction. He must always be proactive and not reactive. He must investigate incidents to find out the root causes and not promote the concept of fault finding.
To provide training and engage the workforce, he must be confident and expert in the subject of training. He must be a trusted adviser for internal and external parties. He must be able to manage the moral, ethical and social status of the organization and advise management in a cost-effective manner to improve the overall safety management system.

Safety specialist must be good communicator and manage self-control

He must develop effective two-way communications by organizing HSE meetings, toolbox discussions, safety training, a safety suggestion program, etc. because mostly, the main causes of accidents are due to lack of training, awareness of dangers and complacency. He must use all possible means of communication to educate staff and set up feedback management. He must develop the employee motivation scheme and ensure the participation and consultation of all employees, workers, risk assessment and any other change management.
He must manage his strength, his weakness and always update his knowledge on the latest technical health and safety issues and good practices from similar types of industries / businesses. He must be a good listener and always thinking out of the box to maintain a successful engagement with all interested parties. Be able to better anticipate the future of the business strategy to define health and safety management programs. His vision must be clear, which helps motivate and align his team to achieve the common organizational goal.

Safety specialist must be good team builder

He must feed and inspire his team, take responsibility for the outcomes. Accept blame for the team result and always give credit to others if successful. Act as a good mentor to develop supervisors on risk assessment, decide on hazard controls, hazard identification, change management, development of critical process procedures, etc.
He must demonstrate good teamwork by appreciating the achievements, by showing interest in all the good suggestions from the workplaces and by strengthening people's morale to develop a culture of safety.


Health and safety officer/specialist must be competent and expert in HSE legal requirement, Risk assessment techniques and risk management, incident investigation, interested parties management and he must develop positive safety culture in an organization by using his expertise communication and self-control and ability of team building skill.

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