‘Coaching for Safety’ with Michael Emery

‘Coaching for Safety’ with Michael Emery
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Welcome to the Safeti Podcast  

‘Coaching for Safety’ with Michael Emery 

If you are involved in Health and Safety, Environment or anything in between, make sure to join us for some laid back learning!

In this Episode, we talk to Michael Emery, creator of the IOSH Approved ‘Coaching for Safety’ course.

Michael is a bit of a pioneer, he identified the gap that existed in the HSE profession and grasped the opportunity to offer something valuable to his peers.

Whilst many of us see ourselves as coaches to some extent, the reality is that very few of us have the actual knowledge and skills to allow us to truly become a coach.

Join us in this podcast to hear more about Michael’s story and get an insight into the power of coaching.

If you’d like more of this type of content and to hear more about what we are doing at Safeti, just fill in the form below


Securus Health & Safety – Coaching for Safety – find out when and where for IOSH-approved coaching courses

Michael’s Blog Post on our Podcast Episode – Michael reflects on the podcast experience

Michael Emery on Linkedin – connect with Michael Emery on Linkedin to have a chat

Coaching to engage – IOSH – find out more about coaching in Health and Safety, this is a great summary document, as discussed on the podcast

Richard Collins on Linkedin – connect with me on Linkedin, I’d love to hear from you!

Full Episode Transcript – Coaching for Safety – read the full episode here

Here’s an Episode taster…..

Michael: ‘Michael you know all of those courses you’ve attended over a 30-year career you can have your time again. But you’re only allowed to attend one of them, which would it be? It would definitely be that course. I think it’s that important.’ [Music]

Welcome to the Safeti podcast with your host all the way from a small green island in the wild Atlantic Ocean, Richard Collins.

Richard: Hi folks welcome back to the safety podcast, this is episode 11. I’m your host Richard Collins. I’d like to just welcome you again back to the show and thank you for listening in.

The voice you heard there at the start of the podcast was that of Michael Emery who our guest on the show is today.

First to market

Michael is a bit of a pioneer. He set up the first UK-based IOSH approved coaching for safety course and has been running it for the last five years or so.

Whilst many of us would like to see ourselves as coaches certainly within the HSE profession, it would appear that very few of us actually have any formal training or understanding of what it really means to be a coach.

This is something that I am very much personally interested in from a broader management and development perspective.

So I was delighted with Michael said he would come on the show and have a chat with us about what it is he actually does in coaching for safety.

To tell us a little bit more about it and how he feels that the learning themes and the approach can really be utilized in a very powerful way within the HSE context.

Let’s waste no more time and go to the conversation with Michael and see what he had to say. Michael Emery from Securus health and safety, welcome to the Safeti podcast, how are you?

Michael: I’m very well sir how are you?

Richard: Excellent excellent. I’m looking forward to getting a good chat with you today and learning some tips on coaching for safety. You’ve obviously become a bit of an expert now that I would imagine over the last few years. If you can tell us a bit about how you’ve got into this and why you do it.

How did you get here?

Michael: Okay so well where to start. I mean 2018 actually is my 30th anniversary in health and safety. Which is… yeah I know pretty ridiculous really. but you know I remember a day in in 1988. When my boss called me into his office and said Michael Cliff’s retiring we want you to be the next Health and Safety advisor.

I swear the first thing that went through my mind was Cliff’s the health and safety advisor. Because I had absolutely no idea. Cliff, I knew Cliff very well. I saw him every day. His our office was opposite where I worked. I had no idea that he was involved in health and safety at all.

And then the second thing that that went through my mind was what’s health and safety and so to say that I was reluctant to get involved in health and safety at the beginning is an understatement.

Getting into Health and Safety

Because it’s just seemed like this you know backwater that nobody was interested in and nobody knew anything about and it just didn’t appeal to me at all.

But I didn’t feel as though I could turn it down and before very long you know after a few weeks and months it was becoming clear to me that actually was a pretty good place to be. And so that was where it was all started.

Then for a good long while I just would have characterized myself as a traditional sort of systems led health and safety practitioner. I think I’m right in saying that the very first HSE 65 was published in about 1988 when I was first getting started. 

Old school approach

So I sort of devoured that and it became my bible and so systems were what it was all about for me for a good long while.  Until I first got involved in in coaching which is fairly recently really in the scheme of things in about 2012.

Richard: Incredible story there just and I’m sure lots of people can relate to how you’ve ended up initially in the rule and doing health and safety.

I guess it happens to a lot of people within organizations when a need appears and you know they’re the person that’s there for the line manager or their boss and is the most suitable candidate. Athat point they’re not exactly sure whether it’s the right direction for them to go in. So it’s been a long journey for you to get where you are today.

Michael: Absolutely.

Richard: It’s definitely interesting know that after you saying that you’ve devoured the HSE 65 from its you know inception way back quite some time ago now. Despite that you’re probably a break from the norm.

Now that you’ve devoted so much of your career to the coaching approach in teaching others. Can you tell us a little bit more about that and why you thought it was worth pursuing in the first place?

Why coaching for safety?

Michael: Well yeah absolutely I mean it again, it’s a story that is pretty close to my heart. I mean I was in 2012 I’d probably been freelance then for three getting on for years and I was freelancing with the Weetabix food company. Which is a fantastic company and because of this huge business excellence initiative that Weetabix were involved in at the time.

I was invited along with the rest of the management team to attend a course which is two-day course.

It was called high performance coaching and I very nearly didn’t go. Because I thought I knew something about coaching. I kind of had this idea in my head that I had a coaching style.

To be honest my attitude was well what is there to learn about coaching anyway. So it didn’t really appeal to me and I very nearly didn’t go. 

But, I did go and almost inevitably midway through the first morning, the penny dropped in a pretty profound way and I’ve realized that what I thought was coaching isn’t coaching.

And actually real coaching it’s profoundly more important for me as a safety practitioner than I would ever have given it credit for.

Mind. Blown.

The thing just, it just blew my mind and so the end of that first day when everybody rushes off to the bar as you do when you’re on a course like that. I actually went back to my hotel room to get onto the internet to look for my next coaching course.

At this stage it was all about me. It was about me becoming a better safety practitioner.

So I wanted something more closely associated with safety and I’ve surprised that I just couldn’t find anything. So I mean what probably happened then is I went to the bar.

But I mean over the coming weeks I sought out an executive coaching course with the Academy of executive coaching in London. I booked on that. That was just easily the most enjoyable course I’ve ever attended.

It was two days a month for four consecutive months. Not a single PowerPoint slide shown. It was all engagement, it was all exercises, it was all coaching and it was just fantastic. Easily the most enjoyable. I actually think it was probably the most important course that I’ve attended.

So I mean if you were to say to me Michael you know all of those courses you’ve attended over a 30-year career, you can have your time again. But you’re only allowed to attend one of them which would it be? It would definitely be that course. I think it’s that important.

Planting the seed

So that’s where it started and at that stage it was all about me being a better safety practitioner.

But the more that I learnt about health and safety, the more I reflected on the profession. The clearer it seemed to me that actually it was the profession lacked these skills.

And so I set out on creating what is now IOSH approved coaching for safety. As we were saying before, it’s just over five years now that is had IOSH approval.

Filling the gap

Richard: That’s a really powerful story after you got here and obviously you know you identified the value and then the gap.

Michael: What happened was I mean thought because these skills are just so compelling and so obvious that I thought that everybody’s brain would be blown by them.

I thought that you know I placed an advert in what was then the SHP. I thought people are going to be knocking down the door to get on the course and I booked a hotel in Glasgow Manchester. One in Birmingham, one in London just expecting them to sell out instantly.

Not a single person booked on the course and I just couldn’t believe it.

But what I learned in that moment was a couple of things. One that people didn’t really understand what coaching is. And two, the profession and I think this has changed to some degree. But I think it’s also partly still true.

The profession doesn’t value soft skills.

So I mean I could have thrown in the towel there and then. I decided that what I’d do is I’d go to as many of the IOSH branches who would let me in the door.

Spreading the word

I’d provide an hour’s long taster and I’d educate people about what coaching skills actually were. And how important at least I thought they were to the profession over five years.

I’m now in a much healthier position that the most of the course is now sell out. So I don’t have to worry that I had in those early days.

Richard: It surprises me to hear that. Something I’m really passionate about with the safety project is helping others in our profession demonstrate their value.

Both within their organizations or within their own businesses if they’re operating on their own.

From your point of view in this course are you trying to say to people that you need to become a coach or you just trying to make them use coding approaches?

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