Simon Seaton, CEO, Energy and Resources, Worldwide, Sodexo
About the author : Simon Seaton

CEO, Energy and Resources, Worldwide, Sodexo

Published on : 6/21/21
  • Despite the progress we’ve made as a global business, we still have some way to go to really embed a health and safety culture.

    We have a zero-harm ambition and want to be the safest place to work for our employees. That commitment is reflective of our care for people – not only for our employees, but also our clients, communities, and the tens of millions of consumers we serve every day. And it is a commitment that is founded on the principle that everyone at Sodexo is personally responsible for health and safety.

    We have nearly everything in place to support us in that achievement. We have the safety standards and safety nets, the processes and procedures, the systems, the tools, the equipment, the training, the communications collateral… we even have teams of people across the business reinforcing our safety messages through the art of song and dance!

    Where we really need to focus our efforts, however, is on our culture; and I believe that begins with strong leadership.  One way to think about culture is how our employees behave and show leadership when no one is watching.  This demonstrates they are aligned and have a keen understanding of the organization’s priorities and values that are embedded in the culture.

    We often underestimate the important role that strong leadership plays in role-modelling the expected behaviours in business for those times we are not present. When it comes to health and safety, we cannot afford to make that misjudgement. When we say everyone is personally responsible for health and safety, that really means everyone, which is why I’m personally committed to driving the right culture and behaviours within the Energy & Resources segment at Sodexo. I recognise that it starts with me.

    When I was younger, I worked for a company, which promoted safe practices, provided us with the right tools, training and personal protective equipment. But safety wasn’t owned at a leadership level and, therefore, the right behaviours were not consistently and rigorously reinforced. As a result, people took matters into their own hands, took short cuts, and made their own safety decisions without fear of consequence.

    I admit I was one of those people. I worked on a site early in my career and I made choices and didn’t always wear the protective safety equipment provided to me when working in a very noisy offshore environment. About 10 years ago, I noticed I had an issue with my hearing, and I got it checked out. It turns out that my left ear hearing damage had been caused by my bad safety decisions when I was younger.

    I can’t blame anyone for my bad decisions. It was my choice and it’s a choice which has had an impact on my health. However, would I have made the same decision if there had been a strong health and safety culture? If my boss or site leadership had demonstrated safety leadership through role-modelling the right behaviours? If I considered more than just my own personal health being at risk through the choices I made? It’s hard to say.

    What I do know, is that when I moved into a senior leadership role, I recognized that if you don’t model the right behaviours, then they won’t flow through to the front line. If we are not talking about safety in everything we do and making it a part of the culture, then it does not get the focus that it deserves, and accidents will continue to happen. In the energy and resources industry in which I work, health and safety is a core focus; it can be a matter of life and death.

    Zero accidents is a bold ambition and we have made it one of the key components of our new Energy and Resources strategy. At Sodexo, we have a strong foundation for success given our care for people. We continue to make great progress with our health and safety performance, and I believe the secret ingredient to move from good to great is an authentic health and safety culture, which relies on safety leadership. It relies on you and me.

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    This article was published for the first time on the personal LinkedIn account of Simon Seaton, CEO, Energy and Resources, Worldwide, Sodexo.