Without doubt the single most important aspect to health and safety (OSH) in your workplace is management commitment. Or put another way, your business could have the most modern H&s system, employees who are well trained in H&S and be well resourced for H&S etc but all of this work can amount to nothing if the CEO is anti or even apathetic about workplace OSH. CEO are clever though! They are not going to walk around telling everyone how H&S is a waste of time and money, no, they are smarter than that. They will simply pay lip service to H&S, and then not take any action at all. To their mind, resourcing a H&S section is ‘taking action’ – they in effect contract out of owning H&S, so they can ‘focus on more important things’. The effect of this lack of visible action and leadership is more damaging than any other H&S investment combined. Imagine the potential then and the step change in performance if you did have all the systems and resources, and your CEO started to verbalise and take action, to lead, H&S in your business.

In Malaysia, the NIOSH have started a new ‘CEO Award for OSH‘ and awarded it for the first time in 2010. What a fantastic idea. In New Zealand we have The New Zealand Workplace Health & Safety Awards 2011 and which has various categories for organisations and two for individuals – but none specifically for a CEO. The actual individual categories are for:


Safeguard health & safety practitioner of the year.

The person whose enthusiasm, knowledge and drive has made a substantial contribution to workplace health and safety. “Practitioner” means a person with formal responsibility for health and safety within an organisation. (Elected health and safety representatives should be nominated for the Employee category.)


Ross Wilson – NZCTU most influential employee.

An employee who has acted as a champion of health and safety and who has had a significant positive influence on the health and safety culture of his or her organisation.

It could be argued that a CEO could qualify for either of these individual categories as a practitioner or employee, but clearly these individual awards are not intended for Senior Managers. They are to acknowledge those on the coalface of OSH. It could also be argued that a CEO would be happy for his company to win an organisation category. However, given CEO are the person in any business or organisation who singularly have the most influence on OSH, then we should have a separate award to acknowledge excellence. When CEO want to know what behaviours to model off, they will now know where to start.