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Irwin & Colton Safety Byte: How to Create a Successful Health and Safety Strategy

EHSQ Alliance Affiliate

In this Safety Byte, Irwin & Colton meet with John Dunne, HSEQ Director at Wates Group, to discuss how to create a successful health and safety strategy.  John offers his insight into creating, implementing and communicating a successful health and safety strategy.  The Wates Group is one of the largest family owned construction, property services and development companies in the United Kingdom. 

The video is available if you click the photo below. A full transcript of the interview is below. Topics discussed include:

  • Where to start?
  • How do you ensure buy-in across the organisation? 
  • How do you communicate the message? 
  • How do you measure the success?

(This post was originally published as a Safety Byte by Irwin & Colton, an EHSQ Alliance Affiliate. Republished with permission.)

Q: Creating a Health & Safety strategy – Where do you start?

Where do you start with a health, safety, environment, and quality strategy? This is quite an interesting thing to consider because nobody really tells you how to start or where you go. You know, as safety practitioners, we learn all about all sorts of theories. We learn all about the knowledge and the technical things you need to know to do your job, but nobody really tells you how to start a campaign or launch a strategy.

And for me, I think the best place to start is by setting an objective, a really clear objective. You can't have a strategy without a clear objective. If you launch a strategy, without an objective, it will fail.

Q: What’s the next step?

The next phase, once you've clearly defined your objective, is then to work on your strategy. Now your strategy, again, has to be really simple. So it's something that meets your end, what you want to set out to achieve, but it's not so complicated that it sets you up to fail.

So when you're developing a strategy, don't go too far. Don't feel you have to add too many things. As safety practitioners, we're fantastic at padding things out. We always feel we need to do more things. But actually, you don't need to. The simplest of strategies are the best.

Q: How do you ensure buy-in?

Once you've got your strategy, it's clearly defined, nice and simple, and that's what you're going to work to, the next step, is getting buy-in. And for me, a really important part of buy-in is getting the ‘real guys’ involved.

Now when I say the real guys, these are the guys that really influence people in the organisation. Not the executive team or the board. In my experience, those guys are really easy to get on board. In fact, in their position, they should be thinking about these things anyway. This is what they should want to happen. I'm talking about the real guys, the real people that influence everybody out on-site.

You know, think about project directors. think about senior managers in an influencing role. You've got to get those guys on board. And if you don't get those guys on board, then your strategy is going to be dead in the water.

Q: How do you spread the word?

Don't beat about bush! Really, this is your opportunity to go big. And don't hold back. For me, you've got to communicate, communicate, and communicate. Tell people. Tell them again. And once you've told them, tell them again. Don't be afraid to do that.

I would suggest you do a big launch. In my previous organisations, we did big launch, a big day. We'd get everybody together, get everybody involved and then you tell them about it. And then you want those people to go forth and tell other people about it.

I use the term evangelical a lot. You've got to spread the word. That's the way you communicate your strategy. You get everybody involved, everybody part of it, and everybody understanding it. And don't be afraid to do that. A lot of people have told me, certainly in Wates, that this current campaign, We’re Safer Together, that its taking over everything else.

But I don't care. If you're achieving what you set out to achieve, I don't care what it's taking over. That is my priority. And you need to make that other people's priority as well.

Q: What help should you seek?

You've got to rely on experts. As Safety practitioners, we're good, but we're not good at everything. And we can't be expected to do everything. You’ve got to get people involved to help you communicate, you've got to go and find the real experts. They might be in the organisation or they might be outside. I'm talking about learning and development experts, HR experts, communication experts, artistic publishers, anybody that can help you spread that message. And the more people, the better!

Q: How do you make your strategy standout?

It has to have its own brand. And what I mean by that is an identity that sets itself apart from everything else. Think about Apple, think about Coca-Cola. These are instantly recognisable brands, and that is what you need for your strategy, a brand that you stick to.

You've got to be very disciplined. A lot of people say to me that I'm quite pedantic when it comes to our brand around ‘We're Safer Together’, which is our current campaign, but you have to be. I expect everybody when they're talking about ‘We're Safer Together’, to use the right terminology.

Q: How do you measure success?

You want to see accident and incident rates improve when you're looking at a health and safety campaign. But for me, the most important measure of success is what conversation's are going on, how the conversation has changed. What I mean by that is you need to be able to go anywhere in your organisation, and people are talking about your campaign, about your strategy.


Irwin & Colton was established with the primary goal of redefining recruitment across health, safety and environment. A work force which is safer, healthier and more sustainable is also one which is more productive, happier and motivated, driving business value.

Our mission is to put the right candidates in the right roles, to help clients recruit candidates who add value through their health, safety and environmental careers. Candidates who are well qualified and technically excellent, whilst at the same time able to create inspiring ideas, influence, engage and communicate effectively, to move an organisation beyond compliance and deliver positive change. We understand the combination of technical and non-technical skills can be critical to success and our delivery of these candidates, sets Irwin & Colton apart from our competition. We have over a decade of experience across health, safety and environment.

Our team have worked with a wide range of blue chip, FTSE 100 companies and leading consultancies to recruit their health, safety and environment teams. We place Directors through to Managers and Advisor’s and provide both permanent and contract recruitment solutions.

For more information, please contact:

James Irwin

+44 (0)1923 432 632



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February 04, 2019 @ 10:25 AM EST Health & Safety

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