Sure, we talked about ergonomics. But really, OSHA isn't making much "hard" news these days. And this OSHA chief presents the opportunity for a different line of questions. He's only the third safety and health professional from industry to become OSHA boss, following John Pendergrass (1986-1989), an industrial hygienist from 3M, and Jerry Scannell (1989-1992), safety and health director for Johnson & Johnson.
Henshaw wants to manage OSHA in a way that reflects his 26 years in the safety and health profession. He talks of OSHA being a "catalyst" and a "facilitator." He says rules and enforcement aren't enough to drive safety improvements. Sound familiar? Many readers have talked in recent years about being more of a coach and consultant, less a command-and-control cop.
If you want some insights about managing safety and health, John Henshaw is as savvy a pro as you'll find. His career includes stints as director of environment, safety and health for Solutia, Inc., a Monsanto spin-off; and various positions with Monsanto Company, including corporate director of quality and compliance assurance, corporate stewardship for environmental safety and health, and corporate industrial hygiene.
Gleaned from the interview, then, are what we can call, "Henshaw's Safety & Health Management Principles":
1. Rules aren't enough. "A standard isn't the end all. Just because you have a standard doesn't mean you have compliance. That's only a piece of it. There's a balanced approach here: the need for education, not just enforcement and standards-setting."
2. You can't always get what you want. "As a sailor, I'm trying to adjust the winds to our boat. I can't change the direction of the wind. I'm trying to adjust it and make as much progress forward as we can."
3. Look in the mirror. "The intent is to grow the things that have been successful, the things that have worked. We've assessed what works and what doesn't work."
4. Deliver the goods. "When we say there is going to be an action, or a milestone, by a certain date, our credibility depends on it. So we have to be business-like and responsible. We have to meet those expectations."
5. Don't do it all yourself. "We've sort of thought it was all on our shoulders and we had to do it all. The mindset I'd like to create is, we don't have to do it all. But we have to be the facilitator to get it all done. We have to be the catalyst. But we don't have to do it all ourselves. We've got to leverage our resources. We haven't been leveraging our resources. We're all trying to do the same thing, maximize our resources and collaborate to the extent we can."
6. Walk the talk. "Value has to be demonstrated, you can't just talk about it. Measure results. Show proof. We have to document our worth."
7. Get out of the office. "Safety and health professionals need to think a little broader than the old traditional way of, 'I'm an expert, you come to my office and I'll tell you how to do it'. We have to be more creative in how we deliver our services. Keep the new ideas coming, keep the energy going, keep the focus where it ought to be, identify additional hazards and other solutions. There is enough work to go around forever in safety and health."
8. Avoid the compliance trap. "I think the challenge for us is to get outside of the box we're in. We had to be there because of all the compliance issues we had in the past. You know, 'OSHA said we have to do it so therefore I'm here to help you comply. I'm here to avoid citations'. We've got to switch and say, 'I'm here to add value. I'm here to make people more productive'."
9. Push the right buttons. "We need to be talking business's language, and articulating our value in business terms, and then we'll have management support. We haven't touched the right management button where management says, 'Of course I'm going to support you . . . you can make me more productive or you can reduce my costs'."
10. Sell whatever works. "We just can't say the truths are self-evident. We've got to sell whatever the best way is to sell. And it's got to be in a language that whoever we're trying to sell understands and can assimilate it."
11. Think systems. "The big issues aren't (always) there. Now we're going to have to focus on the more minute issues, and the more system-oriented issues, to get to that next plateau."
12. Don't settle for less. "We still have 5.7 million injuries in this country. We've said all major hazards have been corrected, all the major issues. But we still have 5.7 million injuries. So I think the next step is, just like in quality, we've got to get down to zero defects. In this case zero injuries and illnesses."
13. Aim high. "Zero incidents is possible. I firmly believe zero is possible. We can achieve zero, but it shouldn't be a goal, because we haven't solved all the issues and haven't built all the systems as we should. Zero should be a target, a vision, an expectation. It's going to take some time, but it is doable."
14. Open your eyes. "Look at things differently, from a different angle. We have an obligation to look outside the box. Many professionalsÂ¿need to recast their message, not in a demanding way, but in a way that exercises leadership. Take that message to different people, people you never thought of approaching before."
15. Take a risk. "We all need to take a leadership role. Which means take a few risks. It's uncomfortable. We've always done our job on the human side, but I think we have a lot of opportunity to be an integral part of the business function, where we are a welcomed addition as opposed to an additional cost. Don't be afraid to speak up. Make sure safety and health is part of human capital. We've not done an adequate job in articulating the value of safety and health, the economic value."
- Dave Johnson, Editor