TJ interviews: Olam Cocoa’s Ronald Vos

Following International Health and Safety Day, we get a few pointers from Ronald Vos. 

We’ve just celebrated world health and safety day, but how do you think businesses should stay health and safety conscious all year round?

Ultimately, taking care of your colleagues through appropriate health and safety measures is a case of good business practice. As with any business practice, if these are not consciously implemented and adhered to, then the potential negative impacts could be significant.

Similarly, good practices should be improved upon continuously and with purpose all year round. Always staying health and safety-aware is good for people and good for business.

The safety part is usually more of a focus for businesses as health and safety is often focused on compliance – but do you recommend businesses have a wellbeing policy as part of health and safety as well?

Certainly, a good safety culture usually results in a high degree of legal and environmental compliance, and keeps high quality standards maintained. These standards support colleagues to feel safe and secure at work, and therefore are more likely to be happy and motivated.

Negativity towards health and safety policies is often a result of inconsistent messaging from different management levels. 

Wellbeing can be fostered by everyone doing the right thing, consistently, and by creating a workplace that is inclusive and accepting. While it is up to individual businesses whether they formalise a wellbeing policy or not, it is certainly in their best interest to create an environment for employees that acknowledges and supports the importance of wellbeing.  

Health and safety is often viewed in a negative, overly officious light. How can you make people see it more positively?

It is unfortunate that this sort of attitude still exists: being safe, and making sure your colleagues are safe, just makes common sense. Negativity towards health and safety policies is often a result of inconsistent messaging from different management levels.

Employees must receive the consistent, unequivocal message of ‘Safety first, above profit and productivity (no short cuts)!’, and they must receive it from the very beginning of their work engagement with a company.

If employees have the impression that profit is the sole priority, or if they feel that they are in a position where they must skip health and safety measures in order to meet the expediency expectations of managers there is a very big problem.

It is a communication and policy disconnect that can have major consequences. Further, health and safety policy creation should be an inclusive process. If employees are engaged in their workplaces to identify safety risks and empowered to suggest solutions that will be seriously considered, and possibly implemented, this will help eliminate negative attitudes.

What are some common tasks that companies should review to improve their health and safety practices?

Health and safety best practices need to be driven top-down, with senior management leading by example. If senior managers are seen to be doing the right thing, every time and without exception, it sets the standard for others in the organisation that safety is a company core value.

So, an important first step for companies to review is whether the proper example is being set by leaders. Additionally, it’s important to review whether employees are holding one another accountable. Every member of an organisation should be invested in ensuring their own, and their colleagues, safety such that they are empowered to call-out any unsafe practice.  


About the interviewee

Ronald Vos is head of QEHS at Olam Cocoa.




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