Generative HSE
Safety beliefs, standards, leadership & performance


The benefits of individual mentoring

By Jim Neilson

I was asked by a waste management company to visit one of their sites and make some recommendations with respect to improving its safety performance.

The safety performance at the site was unacceptable. The site management, were at a loss with respect to how to address the issue. The site management also believed the problems were related to the quality of the workforce and the workforce behaviour .
After visiting the site and spending time talking to a number of people (at all levels and roles) it very quickly became apparent, that the communication between the management and the workers was dysfunctional at best.

The operators were unhappy they, believed they, were doing a great job, satisfying the operational requirements under trying circumstances. They also believed there were a number of high risk hazards on site management were ignoring, and that management did not understand the day to day issues they had to cope with.
The maintenance people were also unhappy they, believed they, were doing a great job keeping the equipment operating. That the operators did not take due care of the equipment when using it, and that management were not “sorting out” the operators.

Management believed both the operators and the maintenance people were not hearing (or paying heed to) the messages management were issuing with respect to safety, taking care of plant and equipment and each other. I met with management at the end of the day and gave them a summary of my findings and recommendations and followed that up with a written report. They accepted the findings and agreed to the recommendations. 

Over a relatively short period of time I coached and mentored management in Visible Leadership and ways to improve the flow of communication both up and down, ensuring the message was received and understood. I also provided assistance to identify and address the higher risk issues on site.

Within a few short months the improvement in attitude and performance was evident. That improvement has continued to the extent that the site is now seen as the best performing site in the organisation. The two managers on site were added to the companies “Rising Star Program” which identifies and provides additional training and mentoring to the people the company wants to retain and rise to the upper levels of the organisation. I was approached to provide that mentoring.

Jim Neilson has over 40 years experience at Bluescope Steel as a Shift Supervisor and Manager in the Slabmaking Department.