Hold an HSE meeting
These guidelines are to help with the planning, completion and follow-up of HSE meetings at your own unit.
Who should take part?
The HSE meeting is an open meeting, to which all staff should be invited and in which as many as possible should take part. Line managers and safety delegates must consider whether it would be more sensible to have a meeting for the whole unit or to split it into, for example, meetings by section. In the latter case, the meeting should be divided in a way that avoids splitting groups that form a natural working partnership. Reasons to opt for a joint meeting could be as follows:
- It is possible to discuss shared problems and challenges and to learn by discussing differences
- It is possible to benefit from each other’s experiences and gain some good ideas
- It is possible to take up problems that apply to the relationship between the different sections
- It is possible to strengthen the feeling of fellowship at the unit
Reasons to opt for group meetings could be as follows:
- A joint meeting becomes too large
- It is difficult gathering everyone together for a joint meeting
- Most current issues relate to conditions internal to the groups
- There is a need to strengthen the feeling of fellowship internally within the groups
In principle, all themes that those involved are engaged in and that they feel are important to the psychosocial working environment can be dealt with at an HSE meeting.
Examples include the following:
- Circumstances relating to an individual work situation
- Interaction and collaboration in a group
- Organisational conditions
- Challenges and problems in the working environment
- Positive and negative aspects of the working environment
- Wishes and targets for the working environment at the unit
Employee appraisal interviews are an important supplement to the HSE meeting in terms of each individual’s work situation. Here, employees and their immediate superior can deal with issues that are not relevant, nor of interest, to the community as a whole.
Personal conflicts should not be resolved at an HSE meeting. Attempts to do so can lead to a deterioration of the conflicts. Management must assess the nature of the conflicts and its own competence to deal with whatever may arise. People should act cautiously but not passively. Generally, it is better if a plan is drawn up at the meeting on how to take the case forward. It would be detrimental to go to the extreme of avoiding every conflict-laden or emotionally charged topic at the meeting.
Template for HSE meeting
2. CARRY OUT AN HSE MEETING
Depends on the choice of method, but should involve:
3. FOLLOW-UP MEETING
The role of the line manager and staff
The role of the line manager is extremely important. When the line manager clearly prioritises the work of developing the psychosocial working environment, it means a lot for staff motivation and their belief that their own efforts can yield results. Experience shows that the commitment and efforts of staff increase when they believe that there is a benefit to doing something and that the manager is interested in and positively attentive to the participation of staff. The central role of the manager does not mean that the manager needs to do everything. The task of management is primarily to take the initiative, to structure and monitor, and to provide legitimacy and support to the work.
At units where the development of a good psychosocial working environment has been given a low priority, a certain amount of work may be involved in setting in motion a systematic development process that provides positive results. By prioritising work on the psychosocial working environment, it will be seen that the focus gradually shifts from repair activities to development work, which most find to be very much more satisfying.
The meeting is normally chaired by a line manager and safety delegate. In some cases – for example, where there are major internal problems – it may be sensible to appoint a different chairperson. HSE Section may be asked to do this, for example. The chairperson is responsible for structuring, programming and running the HSE meeting. A suitable division of the work may be that one person runs the plenary discussions and provides summaries. The other helps to clear up ambiguities and any misunderstandings. If possible, the chairperson contributes by providing the necessary clarifications. The chairperson does not normally take part in any group work but is available for guidance.
The most open communication possible is vital at HSE meetings in order to provide valid information and achieve good results. It must be arranged so that participants:
- Feel that they can freely express their opinion
- Scrutinise their own assessments and reasoning and those of others
- Are fact-oriented, illustrating their views with examples and asking others to do the same
- Are not allowed to kill the discussion by making negative statements when ideas come up that they do not approve of
One of the most important things the chairperson can do is to lay the foundations for the most open communication possible. The methods recommended by UiB are the tools that are needed to achieve this. Good preliminary work, including providing information to participants in advance, is important, along with allowing sufficient time for the meeting. The meeting should be held somewhere where there will not be continual interruptions.
Another good tool is a reflective, self-critical approach to the way in which you communicate. Most people will agree that achieving open communication is desirable. In practice, however, there are often many barriers to openness. The assumptions and judgements people make about their colleagues and about what it is “advisable” to talk about in the work community, and in what way, are one important factor. These assumptions, which a great many people regard as inevitable truths, often lead to people communicating rather defensively and with little openness in spite of their good intentions. This happens particularly when it comes to topics that are unpleasant or difficult. The chances of learning from the issue that is unpleasant and difficult are therefore reduced, as are those of achieving unity on how to work on problems and challenges.
Prioritisation of work areas
In this context, mapping is about using a chosen method to create an overview of the positive and negative aspects of the working environment as perceived by the staff. A list of this type will often be too long for it to be realistic to think that all the points can be addressed, so the list will need to be prioritised.
Jointly arriving at a list of prioritised work areas offers the best possible chance of ensuring that important issues or critical objections are not overlooked. This ensures the highest possible degree of acceptance and thus creates the right conditions for people to work together on measures. If there are few participants at the HSE meeting, the discussion may be held in plenum. If there are more than 7 or 8 participants, a session should first be held in groups. One reason for this is to ensure that everyone’s voice is heard.
The following should be discussed:
- What are the most important areas to work on and take forward?
- What are the simplest areas to address?
The chance of success will normally be highest if people work on an area that is considered both important and simple to address. This will also help to increase the belief in the benefits of doing this and the motivation to continue working on other areas.
The charting and prioritisation of further work as we have described it in these guidelines has been based on an analysis of the status quo. An alternative is to focus more on wishes and targets. Rather than having a discussion centred on questions about the good and less good aspects of the current working environment, you may choose to focus on the question of what type of working environment you would like at the unit and what needs to be done to achieve this. In discussions of this kind, you will normally also learn something about the reasons why the working environment is at it currently is.
Measures, action plan and follow-up
It is important to follow up the HSE meeting if you are to succeed in creating development work that yields results. Management’s role in the follow-up is absolutely central, but the idea is not for management to do all the follow-up work itself. A good solution can be to appoint project groups consisting of people who have expressed an interest in working on a prioritised area. The role of management will then often be limited to that of a coordinator who monitors progress in the work. A useful aid can be to draw up an local HSE action plan that brings together all the threads and provides an overview of the measures taken. Such plans are normally filled in at the follow-up meeting following the HSE meeting and contain information about:
- What is to be done in the short and long term
- Who is responsible
- When measures are to be implemented and whether or not they have been implemented
- What resources may be required
The local HSE action plan also provides information internally and to governing bodies about what has been agreed and acts as documentation in various contexts. The most important function of an action plan, however, is that it can act as a useful management tool over time.