Charity work: inspiring and professional

It is always pleasing when expectations are exceeded, when people are surprised because their experience is so much better than what they were expecting. Here at the British Safety Council we have several ways of doing that, often employed in a combination that brings a smile to the lips.

Firstly, we are a charity – our business model is very simple, we contribute to our vision of no one being injured or made ill by their work through auditing, training and other services that all earn income, supplemented with a bedrock of subscriptions from the many organisations that affiliate to our vision through their membership. But as a charity, any surpluses we earn are as a matter of policy devoted to supporting that vision in ways that may not generate any revenue.

Our proud track record of providing training for young people preparing for work meant that for many years the basic Level 1 qualification was often the first clear sign that someone was committed to joining the workforce.

Now, the British Safety Council Board of Trustees, a group of people who donate their time, has similarly determined that any income from worker briefings on starting conversations, a contribution to the Mates in Mind programme, will be devoted to the effort to raise mental health and wellbeing awareness and performance in the construction industry.

But being a charity is not the beginning of an excuse for anything less than complete professionalism in all the services that we provide. A recent visit to the Middle East provided fresh evidence that the five-star audits help companies drive towards excellence in practical performance. Knowing that the fees are also contributing to the other good work that we do is an added incentive to many organisations to make use of a world-class, independent evaluation that deliberately sets out to identify both good outcomes and opportunities for improvement.

There is  a real appetite for the training of senior managers to become true leaders, and that training has to be dynamic, engaging and thought-provoking, as well as slickly presented, for it to have the required impact. So we surprise those who think that there is something essentially amateurish about charity work.

The second surprise is that health and safety is not a dry-as-dust subject pursued by jobsworths, but an exciting window on how organisations go about their business, explored precisely to achieve those improvements that strengthen them.

When we work in partnership with employers of thousands of people and extensive supply chains, there is a palpable sense of excitement in the creative dialogues that ensue. For every chance to streamline a process or make a procedure more effective and efficient, there is another to improve worker engagement, sharpen on-site communications and deepen the pride that workers rightly take in a job well done.

Whether it is attending to the healthcare needs of local people or upgrading and running a city’s transport system, providing great food or operating financial services, generating power through increasingly sustainable means or running an outreach service to care for older people in the community. Our members and customers are involved in every aspect of modern life, but despite the wide range their determination to make workplaces safer and healthier is both a challenge and an inspiration.

A professional charity, an invigorating and exciting area of work. Surprising!

Lawrence Waterman OBE is Chair of the Board of Trustees at the British Safety Council