What makes their role crucial? What professional qualifications do they have to have? What regulations govern their work? Let's try to answer these questions by describing the ideal HSE Manager profile.
The role of Safety Manager and, by extension, of the HSE (Health, Safety and Environment) Manager, is a very delicate one. They do not always have a support team or an adequate budget. In some cases, they are viewed with mistrust or as a burden by some people in the company. The underlying issue is that first of all we need to build a safety culture that is encouraged and shared by Executives and Management. We should constantly remind ourselves not only of the dramatic figures – over 3,000 work-related deaths recorded each year in the European Union (source: Eurostat 2019) and over 2 million worldwide (source: Institution of Occupational Safety and Health or IOSH), but also the consequences of industrial accidents, particularly at hazardous plant facilities, affecting the environment, production facilities and nearby residential areas.
However, each and every company must set and tailor its ideal Safety Manager profile based on its own needs. The role requires both managerial skills (leadership, proactivity, communication skills, openness, problem-solving capabilities) and very specific technical and operational skills.
Another key issue is the capacity to involve other team leaders and company management. Within such a culture, the safety manager will be seen as an expert, helping team leaders and senior management to drive workplace safety improvements. In addition to analyzing data and making recommendations, the latter will have to play a constant role in training the workforce and in improving protocols and company policies alongside the Safety Manager.
If we look into the not-too-distant future, one of the challenges facing Safety Managers is how to interact with robots, drones and artificial intelligence assistants capable of gathering huge amounts of data from plant and machinery.
The UNI standard
From a regulatory point of view, the HSE profile can be inferred from UNI 11720:2018, which sets out the role, function, purpose and challenges in integrating health, safety and the environment. It is interesting to note that the standard, which came into force just over a year ago, on 19 July 2018, outlines two different professional profiles for HSE Managers, with Operational HSE Managers on the ground, performing tasks related to strategic aspects defined and decided upon by higher levels in the organization and Strategic HSE Managers, chosen by top managers to give themselves a professional figure who can help define the strategic choices and corresponding objectives in the field of health, safety and environment. According to the UNI documents, on the one hand they need to give the lead both during the preventive phase, when company strategies are defined, having a clear vision of the risks involved in the various decisions that need to be taken. On the other hand, they have to take risk-prevention and protection measures on behalf of workers, the environment and corporate assets, in accordance with current regulations. Under Italian law, it should therefore not be confused with the RSPP (the Italian initials for the Head of the Prevention and Protection Service) who, although operating in the same context, carries out a specific consulting role.