The Modern Approach: Skills for the next generation of OSH Practitioner

The IOSH Approved Coaching for safety programme from Securus Health & Safety Limited is entering it’s 6th year and an increasing number of occupational safety and health (OSH) Practitioners from across all industry sectors are benefiting – as are their organisations.

Widely misunderstood, coaching is often equated with training but more accurately, it is about the ability to collaborate; a skill not normally associated with the usual health and safety stereotype. So what does Coaching for safety involve and why are more and more practitioners seeking it out.

What is coaching?

Put simply, coaches are collaborative partners who exist to be supportive and to help their colleagues and clients perform better.

Coaches talk less and listen more and, by learning what ‘active listening’ actually means in practice, they listen better. They tell less and question more and their ability to ask person-focused questions means that they are able to support their colleagues and clients even when they have no technical knowledge to contribute.

Coaches use ‘coaching models’ to help them facilitate conversations and they use techniques like the Empty Chair technique to challenge assumptions and change perspectives.

Why do safety people need coaching skills?

Safety people know about the law and the standards that need to be achieved and how others have solved problems. This is the greater knowledge and understanding they bring to a conversation and they are prized for it – in many organisations it is only safety people who know these things.

But helping colleagues or clients to explore problems and find the best solutions for them, solutions that they can buy into and own and manage going forward is a collaborative exercise that requires more than technical capability alone. It requires curiosity, skillful questioning and advanced, active listening skills – all attributes of a great coach.

Leading safety professionals advocate a coaching approach. They emphasise the importance of balancing technical knowledge with complementary communication skills. And since the launch of IOSH Blueprint, the competence framework for OSH Practitioners, the ability to coach is fast becoming a required skill.

What does Coaching for safety involve?

This is a highly-participative 2-day course built around a series of live coaching conversations involving real-life issues and problems the delegates bring themselves – there is absolutely no role-play. How the skills can be integrated in to daily life in the workplace, whether that be a factory, a construction site or an oil and gas facility, is an important part of the programme.

What are the entry requirements for those wishing to attend?

There are none. This is a skills course not a technical course and seasoned practitioners, rookies and even non-safety people attend – it’s a real leveler.

Which industry sector is this directed at?

All sectors. This course is about the modus-operandi of the practitioner so it’s not specific to any sector. This course is about helping all OSH people be the very best they can be.

Case study

The objective ultimately for our client in the defence and aerospace sector, is to improve their safety culture. In that they’re not alone but what’s extraordinary about this client is the importance they place on coaching. Where others would simply sign up to a behavioural safety initiative in the hope that it would make the difference, this client sees the importance of the team of OSH Practitioners developing more collaborative habits and being they change they want to see.

A senior member of the safety team attended an open IOSH Approved Coaching for safety course and was so impressed he very quickly set up an in-company pilot for a number of the key decision-makers.

The client’s pilot was so successful, they have decided to extend the training further during 2019 and we’re delighted to be supporting them.

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