What’s on the mind of the newly elected leader of the largest professional association for health and safety? Let’s find out.
Hey, it’s Andrew, and this is Safety on Tap.
Since you’re listening in, you must be a leader wanting to grow yourself and drastically improve health and safety along the way. Welcome to you, you’re in the right place. If this is your first time listening in, thanks for joining us and well done for trying something different to improve! And of course, welcome back to all of you wonderful regular listeners.
My guest today is Professor Andrew Sharman, President of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health. Many of you listening will be IOSH members or might have done training which was delivered or accredited by IOSH.
Andrew is the CEO of international culture and leadership consultancy RMS, with qualifications in health and safety law, industrial psychology and organisational behaviour. Andrew is professor of leadership and safety culture at CEDEP, the European Centre for Executive Development, and a prolific author with titles including from Accidents to Zero, The Wellbeing Book, Naked Safety, and Mind Your Own Business: What Your MBA Should Have Taught You About Workplace Health and Safety which he co-authored with former Chair of the UK Health and Safety Executive Dame Judith Hackett.
And he still managed to find time to chat with you and I. Here’s Andrew:

I’m glad that Andrew and I were able to have a respectful discussion on our differences of opinion in that conversation. Between you and I, Andrew did say after the recording that that was the most enjoyable interview he had done for a while, in part due to the fact that we had a real conversation, it wasn’t just questions with well-prepared but sometimes glib-sounding answers. I know you appreciate that, and it serves as a reminder to all of us that lots of learning and value come from good quality dialogue.
Here’s my three takeaways from that chat with Andrew Sharman:
Takeaway #1: We need to unbind the profession. Andrew gave examples of where this should happen, including moving away from just thinking about safety as outcomes, in better understanding our customers, in getting away from the desk, in using the language of business not the language of safety. The reason I brought up this challenge of our boundaries, is we are far to anchored on self-made boundaries. I do this and not that. I think safety is this and not that. My space is here and I won’t dare to stray over there. Andrew is encouraging us to get unbound to improve, what could that look like for you?
Takeaway #2: How does your position create your role? We talked about the differences between being an internal health and safety person versus an external advisor or consultant. Andrew shared how internals often get lumped with ‘doing’, and externals are received differently, with the opportunity to be a provocateur, but forever cursed by the question ‘did they actually take action based on my engagement?’. How can you break away from unhelpful assumptions about your position, how can you add more value either as an internal or external, and how can internal and external safety people better leverage each other to stimulate positive change?
Takeaway #3: What are your top priorities? It occurred to me when I asked Andrew about his moon-shot, the overly ambitious dream, that he was very clear in his responses, from the perspective of IOSH. Practitioners with a stronger voice, who stand up proudly. Better understanding of human dynamics. Moving wellbeing from apples and gym memberships to a more impactful approach. Occupational cancer, and the ‘No Time To Lose’ campaign. It made me think, how clear are you about your priorities, let alone the moon-shot you are taking? If you have to think for more than a few seconds, you’ve got work to do, to become clearer and more compelling about the most important things you are leading on.
Grab a copy of my handwritten reflection notes from this episode, along with a template for you to jot down your own, plus get a copy of the transcript if reading is your thing. They’re both available at safetyontap.com/Ep126, and if you browse around at safetyontap.com you’ll find the entire back catalogue of episode, including episode zero when I first said hello to you, along with all the transcripts and bonus downloads for other episodes, and some episode even have an accompanying video.
Thanks so much for listening. Until next time, what’s the one thing you’ll do to take positive, effective or rewarding action, to grow yourself, and drastically improve health and safety along the way? Seeya!