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The Future in Focus

Podcast: Our Planet, Our Plan: Safety – not just the absence of accidents

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LRQA recently launched 'Our Planet, Our Plan' - an internal sustainability programme that outlines our ambitious Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) commitments over the next seven years, underpinned by time-bound performance metrics.

To accompany the programme, LRQA also launched an eight-episode podcast series to explore each of the seven commitments within Our Planet, Our Plan. The sixth episode, ‘Safety – not just the absence of accidents’, sees Erik Mooij, LRQA’s Global Head of Health, Safety, Environment and Security, share his personal experiences of the life-changing impact that workplace safety can have. Erik also explores how safety has evolved from workplace accidents to more complex physical, psychological, financial and social wellbeing, and breaks down what exactly that means for companies trying to create a safer place to work. Listen to find out more.

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LRQA: The Future in Focus

Hello, everyone. To all of our listeners across the globe, welcome back to LRQA's Future in Focus podcast. My name is Holly Wild. I am the Global External Communications Manager for LRQ,A and it is my pleasure to host this podcast today for you all in which we have a really good topic in store. This time it's about... safety. And I'm discussing this topic together with Eric Mooij, my colleague here at LRQA.

So, Eric, how are you doing?

I'm fine. Thank you, Holly.

Great. Now, it's your first time on this podcast. So, could I ask you to actually briefly introduce yourself to our listeners? What's your role? Where are you in the world? Where are you speaking to us from today?

Yes, of course, Holly, and thank you for inviting me. As you said, my name is Erik Mooij, and I'm Global Head of Health, Safety, Environment, and Security at LRQA. I have a wife, and I have two children, and I live in the Netherlands. And I live in a lovely built area, and I'm sure many of you know it from the postcards.

I’ve got a beautiful image in my mind right now. Thank you, Eric. Now, let's get down to business if we can. Why have I invited you on the podcast today? Our listeners may already be aware that we have recently launched our very own internal sustainability strategy called Our Planet, Our Plan. Quick recap for those of you who haven't heard of it before.

Our Planet, Our Plan sets out LRQA's environmental, social, and governance ambitions, otherwise known as ESG to deliver a positive impact for our clients, our colleagues, our suppliers, our communities, our planet, the list goes on. The plan stretches over seven years and is organized into seven commitments. So that's safety, which we're talking about today. And then we have community environment, inclusivity, education, governance, and equity.

Through our Future in Focus podcast channel, we'll be interviewing a technical expert for each of those pillars, and as I say, safety is the topic for today. Now, with you, Eric, being the Global Head of Health, Safety, Environment, and Security, I think it's safe to say we have an expert on our hands today. And so let me start with my first question.

Why is safety so important to you?

Yeah, that's a good question, actually. To answer that question, I would like to go back in time. When I think of it as a child, I always wanted to be a sailor. And years ago, I used to be an officer on a ship, and I sailed really all over the world.

And I liked, really liked, being on the sea. And the stranger the places we went, the more I enjoyed it. However, once we were somewhere in Africa and we had some time off and we used the opportunity to go on shore and to go to the beach, have some fun, play some football and to have a swim however, that didn't went as expected and I had an accident.

I severely injured my back and my neck, and it took me years to recover from that. And even to date, I still have to be conscious of what I'm doing because of these injuries. And personally for me, this was a life changing event. Because my wife and I, we really had to adjust our way of life in the years that followed.

And ultimately going back to the sea was actually out of the question for me. And you know, that made me realize that the person's life, in this case, my life, and changed in a split second because of an accident. So when I was asked to become a health safety manager, I realized this was for me, an opportunity to make the world and cognitive companies a safer place.

Eric, thank you so much. That's probably one of the most personal and touching stories we've had on these podcasts about the Our Planet, Our Plan sustainability strategy, so thank you so much for sharing that with us. But aside from your accident, which I'm sorry you went through, it sounds like you've had a fantastic international sailing career. So, that sounds wonderful. You've had a real personal commitment as a result to safety, and that's evolved into a professional commitment.

So, let's dig a little deeper if I can, you mentioned that you want to make the world and companies a safer place. Can you tell us more about how exactly that can be done?

Yeah, well, that's actually the million-dollar question, I think. In fact, there has been a lot of research into possible ways how this could be done. And it starts with the dilemma, how to define safety. Traditionally, safety was defined as the absence of accidents. However, in the last years, many safety specialists realized that this is actually a strange way to define something by explaining what it's not.

So in a lot of modern literature these days, safety is being described as being a state where as much as possible goes right. And I'm actually a strong believer of that. And when we zoom in on this description, we see a lot of new possibilities. Because traditionally, we investigated and learned from accidents and introduced control measures and made the workplace safer that way.

But this revised definition of safety tells us what we can learn much more from what's going right. And I'll give you an example. In our industry, our colleagues are entering confined spaces on a regular basis. At LRQA, this happens hundreds of times a year and maybe even more. When somebody has an accident in a confined space, of course we should investigate why this happened and what we can do to avoid this to happen again.

But how about those hundreds or thousands of times people are also going into confined spaces and everything goes just fine? Why do these entries go right and what can we learn from that? I think that when we have a culture where people are encouraged to share with each other how they work, how they have solved issues, how they have anticipated on situations, what went well and why and what went wrong and why.

And then we have a huge potential to become a safer place to work.

Thank you, Erik. That's really useful insight, and you talked there about a culture where people share experiences. Are there specific conditions to implement such a culture?

Yeah, that's a good question, and the third place to have such a culture, people must feel comfortable, of course, to share what went right and what went wrong.

And with that, people must be comfortable to ask questions, to raise concerns and to try new things. It's extremely important that they can do this without the fear of repercussions. This phenomenon is called psychological safety, but psychological safety does not stand on its own. It's related to a person's wellbeing.

I really want to pick up on a phrase you just used there that wellbeing needs to be in balance. Can you talk a little bit more about that? What exactly do you mean?

Yeah, that's a little fake, isn't it? Yeah, when you ask five different people what they think wellbeing is, probably you will get five different answers.

But basically there are four different kinds of wellbeing. Okay. There is psychological wellbeing, what is being emotionally and psychologically healthy, the ability to enjoy life and to feel a sense of meaning and purpose. Psychological safety can be shared on the psychological wellbeing and when members of a team believe they are free to speak up with ideas, questions, concerns, and also to make mistakes.

Without any fear of embarrassment, rejection or punishment. Another kind of wellbeing is physical wellbeing. This is the ability to maintain a healthy and balanced life and allows us to get more out of our daily activities without any physical limitations, stress, pain or something like that. It also involves caring for our bodies and making safe decisions about nutrition, exercise, sleep, etc.

And this part of wellbeing also includes our physical safety and security and our preventive health care. Another kind of wellbeing is financial wellbeing, and this is how people feel about the control they have over their money. It's about the kind of sense of security if they are feeling in charge of their life and their day to day finances.

And if, if they have enough money to actually to make a choice in, in life. And last but not least, there is social wellbeing, which is the way we interact with people and how we manage our emotions and whether we are aware of our rights and responsibilities and all these forms of wellbeing, they need to be in balance. When one of them is absent, people may feel stressed and their wellbeing is at risk.

Thank you, Eric. I can really appreciate the four angles to wellbeing there that you've just broken down for us. So thank you for approaching it in that unique way. Now you, you've walked us through some of the aspects that businesses should start to consider when they're trying to create a safe culture. But let's take a step right back and think holistically.

If there's one last message you'd like to leave for our listeners today, what would it be?

Well, let's face it, one company can't manage all these aspects of wellbeing for everyone. Yet, where people work has a major impact on people's wellbeing, and an employer can do a lot to support its employees.

And as mentioned, when an employee's wellbeing improves, The company in the end becomes a safer place to work. Oh, thank you, Eric. Wonderful final words. And that's all we've got time for today. So you've really shared some valuable insight and I wholeheartedly thank you for that. Safety seems to be one of those unique topics that have professional aspects to it and a very personal aspect to it as well. So thank you for explaining how those aspects work and how safety and wellbeing correlate as well. I'm sure you've given our listeners a dose of inspiration and food for thought today about how to make the world a safer place, starting with their workplace.

So thank you very much. Thank you, Holly.

Learn more about Our Planet, Our Plan on the LRQA website and see our digital dashboard which tracks our progress against all seven pillars.