MORE THAN “A HANDFULL OF MEN”

The allies spent over two years planning the invasion of Normandy but on “D- day”, the fate of the world was decided by a handful of men on strips of beaches. Throughout history, this has been the case; even in these trying times of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the monster rages on; devouring families, economies, relationships and even dreams; the fate of the world undoubtedly still rests on a handful of men – nurses, doctors and other essential service providers. Not on movie stars, footballers, politicians or astronauts; surely because we are not in a theatre production, a game or popularity contest.

Audience applauding in the theaterOur world has just experienced puberty; the changes are rapid, and things will never be the same. It is outlandish and somewhat of a struggle navigating the murky waters of our new existence albeit interesting. The COVID-19 pandemic has opened our eyes to new realities and introduced disruption engineered new ways of doing things. When this is all over, the world we will encounter will be far from the one we knew a few months ago; and so, will require a whole lot more than “a handful of men” to administer it. The execution of our social, political and economic obligations will require a new awakening – smart adaptability. Adapt the same way we did during the heydays of the pandemic; we adapted to enjoying our own company, lived without party jollof rice and abandoned most of our vanities relying on the resolute principles of Health, Safety & Environment (HSE).

Word HSE made with wood building blocks on a light backgroundA scrutiny of the current global state of affairs reveals dreary trends. From an investor perspective, at least for now, huge profits will no longer be the primary determinant of corporate success; the safety and general wellbeing of the critical stakeholders (staff, clients and partners) is now a leading factor moving forward. Anxiety driven interim solutions from communities, governments and corporations will surge thereby further accentuating the need for improved HSE standards and good faith. The businesses that are unsuccessful at effectively producing an adaptive cocktail of quality health and safety practices, ethics and empathy; will have their future in oblivion. This truth further underscores the need for business leaders to awaken to their HSE responsibilities. It is not enough that the function has been delegated; hands-on involvement will be most constructive.

In recent times, several questions have been asked on the backdrop of the COVID – 19 pandemic viz a viz HSE. We will address a few shortly.

1. How can HSE help make organizations stay in business financially and psychologically during the COVID 19 era?

Some industries e.g. aviation, manufacturing and energy require the highest safety standards. When we fly, we are required to go through the safety briefing with the crew as they pass materials around and do the demonstrations. Frequent fliers are often tempted to view them as just routines, but those are actually the minimum standards for operation; there are however those industries where the need to comply are not as apparent.

In this period, our financials (P&L) will no loner be defined by how much revenue we raked in; it is pretty much like life after a war. A belligerent doesn’t claim victory solely on the back of defeating his adversary, he also considers the soldiers lost. The value proposition of businesses in these times is crucial, but most important is the delivery of such value on the safest of standards because it will increase the brand equity of such businesses for investors as well as garner support from regulators both during the pandemic and beyond.

2. How can business owners and leaders integrate HSE into their businesses from inception and follow through?

Every crisis comes with an opportunity. The positive in the case of COVID 19 is that suddenly a large part of us are now relatively HSE compliant, as there is basic knowledge on what needs to be done. It has successfully nudged everyone to action. The business entities who do not have HSE incorporated into their business model because their primary focus is making tonnes of money, are actually at a loss. Proper HSE can generate lots of revenue for a compliant entrepreneur.

When you scrutinize a luxury car in the league of the Rolls Royce side by side a regular car, something profound strikes. The driver of the luxury car is usually more cautious (even though careless luxury drivers exist) coupled with the fact that the car is designed following the highest HSE standards. That is not the same standard for the regular car and driver, who has relatively lower premium of safety standards (there are also cautious drivers of regular cars). Figuratively and literally, the mindset of the Rolls Royce driver is what we need to duplicate in our everyday lives; business owners need to view their businesses as a luxury yatch and HSE as the insurance for the business.

3. What can businesses do to promote cordiality in the face of stigmatization and mental health challenges?

The introduction of mental health therapies, sessions and campaigns by professionals to address the challenges is essential. This is crucial because although work has a future, the foundation remains the mind; and the ability to initiate critical thought is fundamental to healthy work. COVID- 19 has successfully reiterated the need to discourage health stigmatization and address the concerns and challenges. The mental health issues that existed prior to the COVID outbreak have been aggravated considering the fact that liberties are now limited, and there is anxiety in the system. People are not used to these forms of regimented living, there are also those who are on the edges of stress and could fall of the cliff due to excess work requirements (imagine an offshore worker who now has to be on a facility for twelve straight weeks). Businesses with the infrastructure and resources and attentive management will recognize that some irregular behaviours exist in their organizations. This discovery can be the basis of basic guidance and counselling to give such employees the confidence to express their challenges, obtain support and eventually win their trust and commitment. Business leaders have to be patient and honest to pull this off. Providing mental health support is fundamental to why an entrepreneur is in business; the stability, focus and commitment of the people that work in an organization are major deciding factors on its growth potential.

4. What advise exists for SME employers in a post COVID economy?

Small and Medium scale entrepreneurs with a small work force are obviously part of the solution to restart and sustain the economy. The strategies that they adopted which allowed them to survive will distinguish them. Those who cannot function in this period, the chances are that post COVID, they could disappear. SMEs should improve on what they are doing right now and build on them post COVID without compromising HSE.

5. What would be the place of HSE considering the work from home policy adopted by most organizations?

HSE has no limit or boundaries, its principles are applicable everywhere (on the road, at home, in the office etc.). We need to realize that HSE practice begins at our individual homes. Are you physically fit? Start there! Get active in your little spaces and get the best out of your bodies. Next, pay attention to your immediate environment. How is the house built? How safe are the toys and the kids play area? What do the electrical fittings look like? How dry are your walk ways? The key remains paying attention and taking decisive action for yourself and all those around you.

In Nigeria and Africa in general, thoughtful and prudent actions must be taken to ensure that we have more than “a handful of men” to ride the storms that confront us. The key to that remains axial coding of HSE knowledge and practice in our everyday living. This is essential because although in principle the bulk of the HSE weight rests on the shoulders of the leader of a group, the responsibility remains personal to every member of such a group. The simple proof of this is the fact that nobody takes painkillers on behalf of someone else; they show concern at best.

Take responsibility reminder note on napkinTruly, we need to be more genuine in how we perceive and practice HSE, and not just percolate. HSE has to be promoted at all levels through training and skills reinforcement. Through this, cost reduction is inevitable and technology will make more sense of it; so please embrace it. Finally, people need to be alert to the frontier opportunities that credible and purposeful HSE practices will birth for the HSE conscious corporations.

 

14 Comments Add yours

  1. Festus Lukoh says:

    Good evening my Chairman. This is quite expository and technical too. I must say you are some light years away in post COVID-19 sir.

    My plea is that this material is too loaded to be confined to the social media alone. I am visualizing you on a guest’s seat both on television and radio ( not just as a talk show ), but as having one full hour or more to talk about this wonderful insight touching the future of the entire world and not just businesses.

    Also, it will be a moral Injustice if your thoughts are not published for Africans and the rest of the world; developed and the developing.

    I am glad for the privilege of being amongst the first to take this expository adventure into your thoughts.

    Thank you sir.

    Wishing you good success as always in all you lay your mind and hands to do.

    Yours sincerely,

    Bikeowei Festus Lukoh.

    1. Ken Etete says:

      Thank you for your kind words Festus, my team and I are already exploring those options. You will be informed of any development in that regard.

  2. Festus Lukoh says:

    Also can it be shared please?

    1. Ken Etete says:

      Hi Festus, Please go ahead and share. You can share using the links at the bottom of the article. You may also copy the url and paste on whichever channel you intend to share it. Thank you

  3. mozimobeke says:

    “We need to realize that HSE practice begins at our individual homes.” that’s thoughtful.

    1. Ken Etete says:

      That is a fact Mozimobeke.

  4. Dhinakaran Kuppuswamy says:

    Nice article Ken on HSE post covid19. I just want to add that apart from top down approach based on industry experience on HSE we must encourage bottom up approach as we started to learn from Covid 19 on HSE perspectives. Hand shake was a norm pre Covid era but in future smile / vannakam may be the norm. We all used to wash our hands before taking meals but post Covid we learned to wash our hands often. JSA/ JHSA was the norm on industrial environment but now individual safety in addition to industrial norm will be the rule .
    In future continuity of business depends on the wellbeing of the individuals apart from P&L as we have to run the business through people whether it is software / service industries or production cum maintenance companies.

    It is good article Ken.

    1. Ken Etete says:

      Thank you Kuppuswamy. I totally agree with you that the approach should be a mix of bottom up & top bottom. However, business people need to be more responsible because the is a goldmine in plroper HSE practice.

  5. EBIWARI AGEDAH says:

    Asset management delivers a set of benefits, namely (Hastings 2014; The
    Institute of Asset Management 2008):
    • enhanced customer satisfaction from improved performance and control of
    product/service delivery;
    • improved health, safety and environmental performance;
    • optimized return on investment and/or growth;
    • systematic approach to asset-based decisions;
    • adequate logistic support throughout the asset life cycle;
    • effective internal processes, capable of demonstrating legal, regulatory and
    statutory compliance;
    • improved risk management, corporate governance and reputation;
    • workforce training and talent development.

  6. Anthony Mbanefo Onelum says:

    Nature always adapt after a tsunami.

  7. Jeremiah says:

    Quite thoughtful and inspiring.
    It’s a new wave of consciousness and you have given it quite an expression.

  8. Ameh Joseph says:

    This is a wonderful post covid-19 HSE advisory, insights and thoughs. You are indeed miles ahead. We should work at building HSE into the system rather than adding HSE to the system. You nailed it here. Taking responsibility at all level is a key word.

    Thank you so mich.

  9. Ibe says:

    Wow weldone sir, really an eye-opener on HSE post covid19. Properly articulated

  10. Good evening Mr Ken, I have learnt a lot from you over the years mostly from distance. Pre-COVID-19, we Developed our first software called HYPERTRAC, we never saw this Pandemic coming but through inspiration by God and us. Now came the COVID-19 and we look forward to Post COVID-19 era, we know and believe that HYPERTRAC has a great role to play as a solution to this pandemic. The wisdom in your article is very accurate and timely. Thanks very much sir.

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