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Ruth Denyer on Health and Safety as a Risk Function

Ruth Denyer | Risk Director ITV | Health and Safety as a Risk Function | (Expert Interview #12)


In this podcast we bring you the interview we conducted with Ruth Denyer, Group Risk Director of ITV, at our HSE Europe Congress. Ruth discusses the increasing role of health and safety as a function of risk management at ITV.

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– [Paul] A few questions that I’d like to… Firstly, thank you for all your dedicated support with the events and, of course, your workshop presentation which was a huge hit.


– [Ruth] No problem. Thank you, Ruth. We want to have a quick chat with yourself around a few subjects that have come up across the event, and I know it’s something that you’ve been passionate about working with ITV now, and that’s actually how the merge of the job function certainly from H&S into a risk function, is that correct? Have I got that right?


– Putting health and safety as part of the risk function. Well done, Paul.


– There we go, winning. Question number one that I wanted to ask you, health and safety, I mean, it is what it is. It is what it says in terms of the name, “Health and Safety,” and it’s being able to manage incidents and comes from all sorts of means of valuation and management. Basically, risk as a function, if you like.


Traditionally, risk has been looked at as a separate role to H&S. Why do you think that is?


– So, risk as a function, probably, it would fair to say grew up in finance. So, when you think about the risk change in the banks between traders and all that side, so it becameā€¦it’s, kind of, a sub-set of a finance function.


– Yeah.


– But actually, it’s about the risks you take in pursuit of organisational goals. And one of those risks you take in pursuit of organisational goals, is people. And so, safety is part of that. But because it started in finance, a lot of risk went down the spreadsheet route…


– Yeah, of course.


– …in the same way that safety does, in a way, it was forms and processes. And actually, the conversation was never widened out to actually what else are we risking? So, you look at all the algorithms around trading and that’s how much you can risk financially. But actually, a lot of the learning you have from the financial industries in terms of risk is about culture. And that then means you start to work culture in terms of risk, you touch into safety and people.


– Got you. And what will the benefits in moving these functions into each other provide?


– So, you can have a better conversation. So, I think that if you start to talk about the organisation as a whole, and if you talk about success, and you talk about what success looks like, and then what you’re going to risk to get that success.


– Yeah.


– And you align things, so you start talking about the organisation as a whole. You stop things being siloed, and you become relevant. Because while safety is talked about separately, it’s, kind of, people feel it’s irrelevant and it’s a separate thing. Whereas, if you talk about it holistically within the business…


– Sure.


– …and risk is touching everything, people understand it better.


– So, would you say it’s more of a risk function than an HS function?


– So, I would say health and safety is a function within the risk team.


– Right.


– So, we have the risk team. We have operational risk, we have safety. But you’ll always have data risk. You’ll have cyber risk. They’re all risks, and they sit under one risk function. And what we’ve tried to do is start to talk about them all in the same way. So, when we talk about what we’re doing, what risk we’re taking, we’re talking about safety, we’re talking about the anti-bribery stuff, we’re talking about cyber risk from our data.


And then you have a proper conversation.


– That’s a lot of workload for one person.


– It’s not just me.


– Yeah.


– I’ve got a team.


– But I was just saying, obviously, now that these particular elements of a role have merged, will it not put strain on EHS professionals’ roles to do their job effectively and thoroughly?


– I think it’s an opportunity…


– Okay.


– …to have those better conversations. So, when we’re looking at the training we roll out for people, we now write risk training. We don’t write just safety training. So, we’ll talk about the safety stuff, so the risks to, kind of, how we make shows, stunts, special effects, all that stuff. But we’ll also talk about the culture, we’ll talk about how you manage a crisis. And we’ll thread in stuff like how do you protect people’s data? Because it’s the same kind of things you’re talking about.


It’s stopping and thinking about what you’re doing.


– Sure.


– And it’s a risk assessment [crosstalk].


– Yeah. So, it’s scaling what we do well in safety, and just having the same conversation.


– Brilliant. Well, that’s fantastic. Thank you very much.