Monday, June 16, 2008

Judith Hackitt - Closing remarks at Major Hazards conference

Judith is HSE Chair. She was talking at the end of HSE’s major hazards conference on 29 April 2008 at the QUII centre, London. This conference was attended by senior managers from a number of large companies. I believe it was partly in response to the BP Texas city accident.

Judith's key messages are shown below. They are available from the HSE website:

1. Process Safety cannot be managed or led from the comfort of the Boardroom. Real leaders have to demonstrate their commitment by walking the talk – which means going out and seeing for themselves. All too often senior managers and directors are far too detached from the reality of what is actually taking place on the ground.
2. If the people on your Board don’t know about/understand process safety, then they must learn. We cannot assume that Board members understand the concept. This is not something which can be delegated. You are responsible and you must lead, and to lead you must understand.
3. This is not about glossy volumes of procedures and management systems - it’s about listening to the people at the coalface who really know what’s going on. Procedures which look wonderful but are not being followed in practice are no use. Whatever system is in place has to be geared to ensuring safe operation – not to creating good impressions – whether that be for the senior management of the organisation or indeed your regulators.
4. We have heard also that every Board needs to consider what the real vulnerabilities are and address them – and they also need to know that it is OK to seek help and advice from others – that’s also part of real, honest leadership.

We’ve heard about the importance of consistency – leadership credibility takes a long time to build but an instant to lose with one inconsistent decision – “production comes before safety, just this once” simply will not do – the whole culture will be destroyed.

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