Health & Safety Advisory Role

Although the Health and Safety industry has been well established for decades, there are still some common misconceptions on what health and safety advisors do, and how their actions affect the workforce. A large portion of the job focuses on relationship building, communication, and working alongside clients and third-party services, yet advisors are often confused with worksite inspectors. As such, occupational health and safety (OH&S) advisors face continuous trust issues and find they are not given opportunities to voice their concerns because of the misinterpretation of their professional title. 

A Health and Safety Advisor is a subject matter expert whose duty is to advise clients regarding OH&S regulations, best industry practices, and processes. Advisors are the first contact when it comes to potential hazards and safety issues within the workforce, and it is their job to teach other departments to recognize potential issues before they happen. 

Coordination and Communication between all Departments and Front Line Workers is important to the success and improvement of Health and Safety within a company. The picture was taken during a recent rig build unveiling last winter which brought together all departments and representatives of the frontline workers from Prostar Energy.

Divisions between company departments on the health and safety profession are an issue faced by many advisors. Despite a lack of understanding on what, exactly, an advisor does, departments make assumptions on the advisors’ job requirements. 

One example in the oil and gas industry involves internal misconceptions about the role of the Health and Safety department. Many believe that Health and Safety’s sole responsibility is for creating, reviewing, and implementing Hazard Assessments, or that Health and Safety conducts Event Investigations without input from the Operations department – such misconceptions can lead to an unsuccessful safety culture within an organization. Unless all departments are unified and believe in the vision and goals set out by the Executive Committee – and take responsibility and action as a team – the result they are trying to achieve will be unsuccessful. 

Understandably, each department has its own outlook. For example, the outlook in Operations will be from an efficiency, cost, and workable equipment standpoint. Finance is looking at the financial impact. Health and safety examines any situation from the perspective of safe work practices, training and competency, and tracking of proactive and reactive events and submissions. 

Clearly these are just a few examples, as the priorities and responsibilities for each department are much more varied, however, if they want to improve the safety of the frontline workforce, all departments must communicate and discuss ideas on how to improve or mitigate an issue. After all, the end goal for everyone is the same: nobody gets hurt. 

Frontline worker monitors the operation of our rig and safety functions with Operations Field Superintendent.

I have found that companies whose management and employees do not believe that a Total Recordable Injury Frequency of Zero can be achieved, are often faced with the most issues. Is that a coincidence? 

At the other end of the spectrum, are the crews or departments that have not had a safety “event” in years. The seem to be innately aware that if they can work safe yesterday and today, they can work safely tomorrow. 

In my experience, this conviction is best conveyed from the top down. With support and commitment of the board of directors and the CEO, health and safety becomes second nature in all departments, which changes the overall environment that gets channeled to frontline workers. 

Having buy-in from the top down is hard work and takes consistency, but it can be done. Part of it is being able to give and take white hat and black hat feedback. The goal must be to ensure that every employee works safely and efficiently. 

Prostar Energy's front line.

Frontline workers are crucial to any company, and all departments must  ensure that the right health and safety tools are provided to help our frontline workers go home safely to their families every night. There are many tools to help guide companies in the right direction, but the most important is a positive safety culture, or least an understanding that the safety culture can improve.  
Wolfgang Brettner, an infantry soldier in the Canadian Army Reserves, is a Health and Safety Manager at Prostar Energy.