Sheq managers are not human resources practitioners

I am back in South Africa, and confronting the question of the organisational position of Sheq managers.

Are we part and parcel of human resources (HR), or separate? In my experience we are separate from HR, and are more technical and operational.

SHEQ Managers and the CEO

Sheq Managers internationally should report to the CEO or MD. This is common practice in most of the companies I have worked.

In my last role, as HSSE Commissioning Manager for a petrochemical refinery, it would have been impossible to ‘report to HR’. So perhaps we should first look at the industrial sector.

In retail and non-technical industries, Sheq people may report to HR, but in technical operations Sheq managers must report to the CEO or MD, on par with the other departments with their line management silos.

I would hate to report to HR personally, as they too are internal organisational service providers. HR should report to Health and Safety, or HSE or Sheq.

In the modern behavioural approach to psycho-social issues in the UK, the HSE chaps deal with it, and a survey indicated that HR and psychologists were only supporting these psychosocial workplace issues. -Shane Lishman, in response to a report by Rudy Maritz (see his report on workplace Sheq culture in the UAE, in another post on Sheqafrica.com).

Where do Sheq managers and courses fit in?

Unisa apparently sees OHS as part of management, judging by its current change of the Safety Management degree to a BCom degree with safety modules.

In the earlier post, Rudy Maritz wrote that most Sheq managers worldwide agree that we are a profession, but some see us as a sub-field of human resources management. The South African occupational framework, OFO, sees OHS or Sheq managers as working in the human resources (HR) discipline.

The DoL adopted the use of the OFO (which extended ANZCO by incorporating additional occupations and occupational categories identified through research and consultation) as a tool for identifying, reporting and monitoring scarce and critical skills, and maintained it through an annual updating process.

This process and responsibility was taken over by the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) five years ago.

Health and Safety and the OFO

According to the 2013 Organising Framework for Occupations (OFO), occupations are classified in eight main groups.

In the OFO, Health and Safety Managers (Sheq managers) fall in the main group of managers, and the sub-group of Human Resources. From a skills level point the HS or SHE Manager is on par with the HR manager, Recruitment Manager, Training Manager, Compensation and Benefits Manager, and Employee Wellness Manager.

The OFO Occupational Code for SHE Managers (121206) notes that this person manages, reviews and evaluates work environments, and oversees the design of programs and procedures to control, eliminate, and prevent disease or injury caused by chemical, physical, and biological agents or ergonomic factors.

Clearly, the DHET sees Health and Safety Management as a Human Resources function, and not a health (medical) or safety (engineering) function.

Contrary to Health and Safety or SHE Managers, practitioners fall under the Professional sub-group 226302. This person develops, implements and evaluates risk management policies and programs, trains employees in occupational health and safety procedures, monitors and audits the workplace, and records and investigates incidents to ensure safe and healthy working conditions.

Environmental Managers are described under 226301, with various other options. From a construction perspective, Construction Managers include Construction Project Managers, and various terms in the Engineering field. There is no classification for a Construction (SHE) Agent, Manager or Officer in the OFO.

Safety falls in various occupational unit-groups, and safety officers fall in some specialist groups, like mine safety officer, marine safety officer, fire safety officer, food safety officer, road safety officer, or safety and security officer.

The ultimate responsibility of Sheq practitioners (Sheq managers) is in planning, leading, co-ordinating, controlling and resourcing of those functions that achieve organisational compliance in best practices, wrote Martiz.

SHEQ cannot operate in isolation

Sheq practice does not operate in isolation, but is an overarching or horizontal function, integrating into every line function (vertical) within an organisation.

The ideal organisational structure should have a Sheq co-ordinator in each department, reporting to a Sheq manager and a Sheq champion at board level.

OHS has a very unique place in the business world. One of the key subjects recommended by Prof Phoon to the ILO, is the organisational functions within the OHS professions. Sheq managers serve administrative and organisational compliance, and are thus management functionaries.

• See the views of Prof Wai-On Phoon of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, in an International Labour Organisation (ILO) publication, or in a summary in another post on Sheqafrica.com. These views contradict the current OFO structure.

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Shane Lishman

Occupational Health & Safety Specialist
Shane Lishman CMIOSH OSHCR SIIRSM EHRB IoD(UK) Saiosh COSHPROF has over 30 years experience in HSE system development, implementation and HSE project management.
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27 thoughts on “Sheq managers are not human resources practitioners

  1. I am now in the health and safety department coupled with my present job as a qa officer. I find this new field fascinating and I would like to persue a career now in the health and safety field but I have no clue what courses or diplomas to follow. Please, would you be so kind as to advise and direct me to specific courses that I can follow to understand and upgrade myself in this woonderful career.

    1. Seeing you’re already in quality management I should think you’re already well versed with ISO 9001 system. This is an excellent bases as the system is fully compatible with OHSAS 18001 (health and safety) and ISO 14001 for the environment.

      Completion of the 2 both from a system perpective and ultimately auditing should make a sound departure point. Couple this with a comprehensive legislation courses on both health and safety as well as environmental management then you’ll be on the right direction. Important though is that you need to choose a good service provider that can be able to clarify where do both fit in the legal system (civil and criminal), their constitutional bases (as the supreme law of the country), principles embraced by each as well as the specifics on application and scope.

    2. Hi

      As I have said many times it depends on the following
      * Where do you want to practice
      * What level would you like to work at or aspire to
      * What suits your budget currently and what sacrifices are you prepared to take.

      First try the shorter courses to get a feel if you like it or not.
      If you wish to go higher, think of a degree or diploma. Also choose your university carefully. Do you wish to study in a university rated in the 1500 or the top 100 in the world. This is important if you wish to work internationally.
      Lastly, look at your budget, its not cheap to study. If you wish to do a course overseas, it could cost you a packet.

      Best of luck to you, and I hope that you enjoy our profession.
      Regards
      Shane Lishman
      Education Director (Saiosh)

  2. I agree with Shane that SHE should NEVER be part of HR. In the 80’s and 90’s it was fairly easy to handle the SHE Dept as a 16(2) but the field has expanded and deepened to the extent that I am thankful for a competent SHE Manager on site who reports to the CE.

    However I must add that I have met too many SHE Managers who see their role as that of policeman of HO policies rather than that of assisting site management to review and evaluate site conditions and to formulate procedures and programs to eliminate or mitigate SHE exposures.

  3. The relationship between HR and health and safety is undeniable; HR cannot exist without Health and Safety but the Safety on the other hand can. This is because wherever there are people employed in a workplace there’s always health and safety hazards and risks which they are exposed to. On the other hand the safety element extends far beyond the human risk as it includes operational aspects relating to property and process risks.

    Virtually every engineering and built environment field has a large focus on safety; a structurally sound building ensures the risk of loss of an expensive asset is mitigated even before the human occupation is considered. Similarly a substation which only needs to be inspected once quarterly still has a multitude of safety risks which could result into property loss while the human risk is reduced due to the frequency people actually interact with it.

    The approach however as to who reports to who will be dictated by the nature of the business. As Shane correctly states, it would be shortsighted to have health and safety report to HR in a high risk environment (petrochemical/ mining) while the same can’t be said for a purely administrative business. Unfortunately however no matter how much we may want to we cannot detach health and safety from HR, this is evident as a substantial proportion of health and safety is governed by labour legislation which also governs HR.

    1. Hi
      To some extent I agree. Having also worked in HR for a short with Colas, while not Personnel Management (A big Difference), I believe that we confuse the two. Personnel Management is more payroll, etc type work (your may check definitions in any HR Book), whilst HR should be focused on Personnel development, psychometric testing, organisational psychology, psychosocial stress cause by the work environment, manpower planning in relation to projects etc. This is where HR can make the biggest contribution to HSE however, this has failed in numerous countries and most definitely in the UK, so much so, that many of these areas are now driven by HSE people, and courses, such as those given by Nottingham, focus on psychosocial stresses cause by the work environment. As for labor laws, this is done also by the HSE professional in his/her course, so he knows the labour lays, including the Labour Relations Act. He also does a bit of Commercial law in his course.
      One must not detract from the HSE Professionals capabilities. The Environmental Health Trained person also do pure science courses, e.g. chemistry and physics.
      In My opinion, the HR chap should report to the HSE Professional.

      Thanks for the chat
      Regards
      Shane

  4. I like to think of departments in terms of Silos or Cells that are linked to spread the Nutrients or Information, that the Organism or Business might effectively function.

  5. Is it my imagination or is Shane (SAIOSH) and Rudy (NIOCCSA) agreeing on this topic?
    If that is the case, there is hope for H&S in this country.

    1. Seems that way.
      Possibly due to a similar academic background. Will try next time?
      Seriously though, Rudi and I may have different views, but we both BELIEVE in the profession, that said, this makes for healthy debate. We both bring a different skills base, from which we both learn, and hopefully others do to.

      Regards

    2. Yes Danny, Shane is correct. We do see the profession from the same angle and still have faith that it would one day count in the same league as the rest of the world. There is no reason for SAIOSH and NIOCCSA not to work together, even though the focus may differ. And having Shane back on terra loca could just achieve that. And if we get that part correct Danny, Koos’ words might just come true.

      1. Koos, it’s Rudy with a WHY not an EYE (y), much like Koos is not spelt with a D 🙂 Kood
        Mentioned something about a fool and his money?
        If H&S works the way it should, Safety Files will not need to be “approved”, and phony files would not be in demand and not available for sale.

      2. Hahaha!! What wishful thinking. Do you really think that SAIOSH and NIOCSSA can stop the File Factories in SA? Think again!!!!
        I have DOL inspectors recommending me.

  6. Disappointing. I thought I had found a useful SHE website where matters could be discussed in a way that adds value and spreads information. Instead it turns into a useless comment and reply session by people with too much time on their hands.
    Maybe SHE Managers should report to HR and be sorted out!!!
    Cheers guys – I’m off to find a more useful website.

  7. Ken
    The usefulness of this site lies in the actual text of the articles. The comments are very seldom related to the topic, but only directed at one or two words or safety acronyms which looks familiar but does not ring any bells. Then they attack that. It is typical of human nature – if you do not understand it – kill it.
    Good luck in finding a better site. You could try the safebuild forum where only three or four people keep the debate going, Neels, Rudy, Brian and Vincent and Neil, or the health and safety club where they ask the questions and provide you with links to stuff they sell containing the answers. Then there is FSP Business where HS questions are discussed by HR professionals. Or you could try the Labour Guide where most posts on HS relates to IODs.
    Bye bye Ken, See you tomorrow.

  8. Hi Ken, I do see your point.
    I think you may have checked the box for ‘Notify me of new comments via e-mail’ by mistake.
    Best Regards
    To Everyone=)

    1. erm..Vincent?
      Pity this site does not have a “unfriend” button. But perhaps Ken is right. HR should manage SHEQ. It is not really a profession is it. Each letter on its own is very well a profession, but when you put a plumber and brain surgeon into one body, you better not have bladder problems.

      1. Ag Pieter – for that matter neither is an accountanct or a lawyer – what do they make? They jist ride on the backs of others. But no my friend, you are wrong – Health and Safety is an important profession – but its still in its infancy in South Africa – the problem is the infants (anybody say Ray?) are old grandpas now – the people driving the profession were not the most dynamic or educated for that matter – this could change if possible. HS should not report to HR. It is driven top down – the board should have someone at director level who knows his stuff and can audit decisions made and advice. This should be backed up by a team of specialists who can implement the vision and stratefy for HS across the various divisions and not be beholden to one – the HRs.

        Now let me blow your little mind with an excerpt from a recent paper by Wahlström et al, 2014, titled Safety management – A multi-level control problem; where it was found that

        “polycentric control may be a useful concept in setting up systems for safety management. Polycentric
        control suggests the inclusion of specialised control agents at different hierarchical levels, which have a task of detecting selected safety threats and responding to them with protective actions. Taken together this would suggest an integrated control structure to be applied, where low-level automatic functions signal concerns, which are responded to with higher-level control loops. The burden of additional uncertainty due to many autonomous control loops, should in principle be offset by the benefit of targeted modelling and validated models.”

        Thats why, if one make a statement like “I fink ‘Elf ‘n Safety should be part of the HR”, one should back it up with decent sources of research. That has not been done here. Ken, you have made your mind up to quickly, I suggest you get membership with IOSH, they even give Associate ones aways, and join the discussion forums there – it will blow or bore your mind too.

      2. LOL Koos, you just provided a source that suggests safety (on its own) is an engineering function. Another issue H&S people would not accept.
        You would also find that HEALTH in elf n safety is a medical profession.
        Then you can take the E and see engineering and science.
        But when the supervisor, manager or employee cannot perform the work, due to a lack of medical, engineering or scientific skills, you run to HR and ask why on earth they appointed him. I do believe that HR plays a vital role, as Rudy suggested in another post, in achieving health and safety compliance, and all went NO I do not want to report to HR.
        The reporting structure was never the issue or part of the topic.
        It was merely informed that ANSCO, OFO, and all other standards used to determine education curricula, sees H&S as a HR discipline. Nobody but Shane read “report to HR”.
        I think I should join Ken and Barbie

  9. And those with the second S in their job titles are probably operating illegally in any case.
    And then we have the very bottom of the food chain safety officer – the Event Safety Officer, who is nothing but a glorified Security guard.
    Yet 20 000 plus people attend some events throughout SA and entrust their safety in the hands of a person with absolutely NO qualifications or experience. So if you cannot make it in construction – there is plenty of room at rugby and soccer matches.

  10. Absolutely! You can either register as an HR generalist, or a specialist in any of the categories below:

    Planning, recruitment and selection
    Learning and development
    Reward and remuneration
    Employment relations
    Safety, health and environment
    Organization development
    HR Information Systems/Technology
    HR Administration
    Productivity

  11. Today, I had first hand experience of what H&S means in South Africa. It is not an HR function at all. It is a ffinance function – more specifically, insurance.
    It is designed to minimise the liability of the employers, not protection of the workers, which is incidentally an additional benefit derived from the hoard of requirements totally unrelated to HS.
    HS managers should thus report to the Risk Manager and Internal Audit committee, not the CEO as they believe they should.

      1. Not quite as sad as this comment on news24: “HSE professionals WAGE as is supposed to be R1 500 000 to R2 000 000 per annum, as we are not an ADD-on function. We are never budgeted for, and expected to be the saving grace of the company or owner.”

        The saving grace of the company or owner? what about the employees? Are they just among the casualties of doing business?

  12. Somehow the HSE function is often still viewed as something that must be tolerated as part of doing business, much like paying taxes and toll fees.
    In popular fiction Homer Simpson of the “Simpsons” and Mike of the “Middle” (both safety managers) are depicted as bumbling fools.
    As long as this important function is looked down upon and sidelined by most institutions not much can be expected.

    ==== Editor queries; It is good to look in mirrors, even warped mirrors. Do Homer Simpson or Mike ever do anything right, such as saving some lives and improving the quality of life?
    An honest cartoonist would show them consulting psychologists, for two reasons; to get confirmation that they are unpopular with the boss and with colleagues due to legal and business structure, not due to any personality flaws. And to seek the self-healing and personal balance required of healers.
    To misquote Shakespeare; ‘Sheq is out of joint, oh cursed spite that we are appointed only to set compliance aright.’

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