Skip to main content


The success of managing Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) depends on an effective and efficient process of becoming aware of the potential for improvement, problem definition, diagnosis, designing possible improvements, decision making and implementing potential improvements. This process requires specific capacities, experience and competences and therefore involvement of dedicated and capable staff. One important goal is to achieve impact. This means that a proper OHS advisory project occupational health and safety services not only needs to focus on technical advice but also [1] delivering effective solutions which will be accepted by management and the workforce. A management of change helps to introduce solutions that last. Depending on the job or function of a consultant, e.g. when working for a service on OSH, he or she needs to comply with national legislation and certifications schemes being established in or resulting from specific EU Directives e.g. the European Framework Directive (89/391 EEC).

Consulting is co-creation

Managers will often seek assistance through internal or external expertise delivered by specialists supporting him on specific elements of the improvement process or the process as whole. He can hire consultants to facilitate him. These consultants may be experts from Occupational health and safety services. The conditions for success when implementing solutions depends on a methodological approach and involvement of all stakeholders involved from the beginning of a project. Implementing lasting performance improvements requires change management supported by leadership. The consultant plays an important role in this dynamic and interactive approach, both as a professional and as person. A consultant may be an internal or external service provider. OSH specialists can act as consultant when competent or seek cooperation with consultants. Modern OSH-specialists will combine expert knowledge with consultancy skills [2].


A consultant in this context is considered to be a professional who is engaged with issues in the field of health and safety and is asked to support an organization seeking development to improve their performance. E.g. in occupational safety and health , process safety, human resources management and optimizing performance of organization’s personnel. A consultant is in a position to influence an individual, a group or an organization, but who has no direct influence to change the organization or to implement a program. The manager who he is supposed to support has direct influence and owns the problem.


A consultant may support an organization in one or more phases of a change process. This can start by inspiring a potential principle with a vision on potential for improvement or exploring solutions for a problem the principle needs to resolve. Recipients of the consult may be: the principle but also clients, decision makers, and/or other people involved in the consultancy task. Together, they are defined as the client system. The client is the one with whom a consultant is doing business. He or she pays for or offers appropriate resources to perform the job and will finally determine whether the job’s deliverables will conform to the tasks and specifications agreed upon. The assignment or task may come mostly from a line manager or staff manager who has a duty to organize a change in his or her organization and wants to have the safety culture diagnosed. However, the task may also entail managing a complex project or performing tasks in a project, e.g. doing brainstorm sessions, road mapping, delivering a business case for a health management. It may also be a project aimed at the development of a system for safety performance indicators. A consultant may be hired for developing a practical solution in the field of human factors. In each of these examples, a project has to be set up and other persons may come to the front on behalf of the client: purchasing department, a contact person or even a steering group directing or providing guidance to the project or task. The client, in a broader sense, is all the people who are involved and being influenced by the work of the consultant. This may be the target group of his or her task, e.g. a group of train drivers or train managers/ticket collectors are the professionals whose processes are subject to risk analyses and even health surveys. But, in addition, stakeholders with the organization may come to the foreground like employee representatives and the team leaders of those project managers or even the human resources department. It will depend on several factors including the work style of the consultant, the scope of the assignment, the resources available and the degree of freedom given within the client’s organization or network who will be in contact with or cooperating with the consultant.`


Consultancy, as a concept, is meant to be a coherent set of activities contracted with his or her principle which contribute to the result the consultant has envisaged. Consultancy is therefore a broader concept than communicating a view, opinion or solution to a problem. It also encompasses the conceptualizing of a suitable and effective approach as well as finding, engaging and connecting with people. These people must work with the consultant and fulfil the job role necessary to act in the management of change process. In addition, the selection or design of the approach needed in the change process also encompasses the consultant’s task coupled with engendering commitment and engagement for addressing the problem or solution.

How the result is obtained is not an absolute formula. As travellers say: “there are many ways leading to Rome". The consultancy process is a set of activities supporting the client system with advice or other services. It has the following key elements: the approach, the client system and the content of the support and the consultant cooperating to reach improved performance. The organization and its environment are the context of the process. Depending of the assignment, they will be more or less part of the proposed approach and always relevant when analysing stakeholders, resources, powers and influences on the client system.

Figure 1, Consultancy is a function of content, client system and consultant
Figure 1, Consultancy is a function of content, client system and consultant
Source: [3] Interpreted by author from H. Nathaus.


Role and tasks of a consultant in implementing OHS plans

An OHS plan may be aimed at a specific issue or situation needing better performance or shift in methods. This may require improvement or renewal of processes, organizational structures, introduction of new technology, or a new way of cooperating in a chain or within networks. For example, strengthening the learning organization, safety culture or introducing health management as a positive way to improve vitality of employees may be a goal needing organizational change or shifting paradigms especially when core values of the organization are concerned.

The key role of a consultant is to translate a (probably unclear) question or demand into a concrete proposal for research and/or advice. This may take several steps before a change project can be started. Several consultants may take a role in it (consecutively or simultaneously in a team). A principle may ask a consultant to do only part of the needed consultancy and may decide to look for other solutions after his or her initial advice. Considerations when hiring a consultant can include:

  • A personal “click" between the principle and the consultant
  • Other personal characteristics; does the consultant have the right profile to work in the organization and with the stakeholders involved?
  • Experience needed
  • Dependence or independence from principle
  • Resources available to hire or to employ the consultant
  • Capacity and assurance about capacity to deliver on time according to assignment
  • Being able to work with evidence based practices or implement a certain method or theory
  • Access to relevant networks.


A consultant has several primary roles:

  • To collect and interpret knowledge on a given domain, spot relevant trends
  • To deliver expertise to employer or employee
  • To define activities to translate questions, problems and ambitions into solutions
  • To do analyses, measurements, investigations etc.
  • To develop solutions
  • To develop an implementation strategy of solutions
  • To provide a business case for a specific measure
  • To support implementing measures and programs
  • To monitor progress
  • To evaluate effectiveness.

Secondary roles are:

  • Advising, asked and not asked by a principle, depending on the task of the consultant in an organization
  • Supporting management in interim functions
  • Perform project management
  • Training and teaching
  • Coaching people involved in those processes
  • Mediating in processes and conflicts of interests
  • Innovating by opening up views on new solutions.

The difference between a consultant and an expert cannot be put in black and white. Each will have a personal profile more focused on the content than the process needed to reach a specific solution and impact or vice versa. For example, an occupational health and safety service or a research institute may have dedicated experts or scientists but also employees dedicated to consultancy. When complex projects need to be managed as well, other “specialists" may be needed who are dedicated to project management which could be fulfilled by a generalist. The project demands and client wishes will determine what combination will fit best for his or her task or assignment. Depending on the complexity, the scope, specific expertise or competence needed, the profile of the consultant needed may change. A small or medium scaled company may more often assign a generalist who has a lot of experience in its industry but not an in-depth specialist per se.

The profession of experts and consultants in itself is also developing. A natural development in terms of a career can be that experts grow into more senior profiles and choose to develop expertise and capabilities within the consultancy, e.g. process management or change management.


A typical task of an OHS consultant is to deliver expertise and support to an employer and employees. This task may be partly based on OHS regulations and covers expertise in the field of:

  • Health
  • Safety
  • Occupational hygiene
  • Radiation
  • Process safety
  • Radiation hygiene.

Those OSH specialist may be able to deliver consultancy services but need to develop skills and experience to act as a consultant engaged with change processes. Not only in the details and considerations of his or her field of expertise but also by being active in supporting and organizing the proper activities to support organizational development.

Some specialists may not be capable or motivated to act and perform in this way so another capability and capacity needs to be sought either as a support of specialists or work with those specialist in projects and tasks. Moreover, it may be very beneficial to hire specialized internal or external consultants to do research or advisory projects to get fresh views and learn from them.


Specific qualifications for consultants in their role of expert within a certain domains of expertise may be laid down in national legislation. An individual consultant will have developed his own curriculum expressing his or her qualification as seniority grows. This will often be a combination of job oriented formal and legally obliged requirements and of others depending on field of expertise and function of the consult on specific phase in his or her career. Depending on their job the specific expertise of consultants working in the field of OSH may need to comply with national legislation on occupational health and safety services and in particular with the European Framework Directive (89/391 EEC). This directive establishes the most important general rules for the management of safety and health.

There are many ways to qualify as a consultant. A basic one is that he or she develops relevant experience and capabilities (knowledge and mastery of working methods, being able to put a problem within a broader perspective, personal skills in working with groups, develop sensitivity for organization, coaching skills etc.).

Already, some advanced schools or universities for OHS specialists will train their students in advisory skills. However, this needs to be expanded with professional training in the field of process management, management of change, and even up to a level of scientific management.

The level and capabilities developed can be documented by official proof of mastering consultancy skills and expertise by thesis or final proof in a project and examination. This will usually result in a certificate. Also, this again highlights a need for further development by follow-up courses and even membership in professional societies and admittance to a qualified group of professionals. This membership can deliver proof of continuous education and proof of experience by peer review. But, most of all, personal curriculum vitae, a track record and client satisfaction will need to support the quality of the consultant as a “proof of the pudding".

In the end, the mature consultant needs to express his or her personal “brand" and “business plan" showing a vision for the profession, the way he or she wants to work and how to deliver their services. Social media like LinkedIn, Facebook, publications, professional forums and personal websites will give anyone who looks for a specific consultant relevant information to make a first glimpse at qualifications and proactivity in a certain domain. And last but not least the name and fame of the consultancy service they are working for provides additional qualification.

Scope of consultancy

The scope of a consultant’s job will differ depending on the kind of service needed. In the field of occupational health and safety and health, management or even resilient performance, the consultant’s job will depend on the problem or question raised. This, in itself, will be influenced by the context of the client system which will have a history of experience and growth . It will depend, for instance, on what kind of culture is prevalent: pathologic, reactive, calculative, proactive or even generative (safety culture levels according to Hearts & Minds). But also effectiveness of the management system being integrated according to state-of-the-art and following learning opportunities. A consultant may need to deal with:

  • Follow-up of laws and regulations
  • Improvement of workplaces and prevention of illness at work
  • Preventive approach and intervention on systems level (structures)
  • Solutions sought in processes, interaction and culture, learning organization
  • Cooperation in chains and networks
  • Integrative health and safety management with partners, resilient and adaptive organization.

The services of consultants are diverse and depend on the specifics of the client system, its culture and experience. He or she may deliver diagnosis, analysis, tools and methods to be used by the clients, provide training or can be involved in more process oriented activities, e.g. to design and support change processes, develop a learning organization, do intervention to change safety culture or renew human resource management aiming at strengthening vitality and employability of employees. The demand for services evolves. As a result, the role of an OHS consult has been and will keep developing according to new visions and challenges. The origin of consultancy services, from the traditional OSH services, may shift to specialized “business" consultants or process managers experienced in intervention, e.g. in organization culture, optimizing teamwork and strengthening vitality of people. Innovative OHS services and specialists will change themselves and follow these developments and market opportunities.

Table 1, Consultancy styles to be aimed at levels of learning and adaptation
Table 1, Consultancy styles to be aimed at levels of learning and adaptation
Source: interpreted by author from Cecile van der Velde-de Roos/Kloosterboer

Organization of consultancy

The service of consultants may be organized in several ways. Combinations of the following basic concepts can be mentioned:

  • In staff or in management line

In company staff (advisor to manager, member of OSH service team or department

  • At company top or at workshop floor

Specialised or all round experts working at company level for a broad area of units, departments. As a coordinator amongst first linen manager and production being an employee (with specific coordinating and advisory tasks)

  • Employed or hired

Member of the company staff or hired from external service provider like OSH services or specialised bureaus.

Results to be expected from consultant

Results expected and contracted will depend on the outcome of the dialogue between consultant and client. It will depend on mutual trust, capabilities and resources. They are mostly unique propositions but will have common elements. Consultants are expected:

  • To be sensitive for position and real demand of client and questioning the underlying need. This will determine the context for a possible assignment, e.g. urgency, to explore win-win of project with company program, prevailing strategic company issues, personal ambitions of client, company culture, possible resistance to change.
  • To propose an efficient and effective way of working and to balance necessary steps in short and long term.
  • To analyse needs in depth and define a proper definition of a problem to be solved or ambition to be accomplished and give direction on activities and resources needed.
  • To contribute to decision making, developing strategy and work programs.
  • To develop a common understanding of results (SMART targets) envisaged, way of working resources available etc.
  • To provide access to state-of-the-art knowledge.
  • To perform task at level of organization and industry required given the task, their c capabilities and the contract.
  • To select and exercise several work methods and to co-create with groups.

Competences of consultants

Competences of consultant relate to the kind of organizations, the scale and scope of the problem and solution sought, the culture of organization and support staff. A frame of reference is a typical advisory process that has a general basis for an array of consultancy services, and will be used to highlight relevant competences.

Figure 2, Consultancy requires a diverse set of competences
Figure 2, Consultancy requires a diverse set of competences
source:[4] Adopted by author from Netherlands Organization of organization advisers

The kind of contribution to be delivered to the client system may vary from expert on a specific technical issue to director/coordinator of a change process.

Table 2, Consultancy is a proper balance of steering and support
Table 2, Consultancy is a proper balance of steering and support
source: [5] Interpreted by author from Cecile van der Velde-de Roos

Dependent on his primary field of work a consultant needs to develop and offer three kinds of competences:

  • General competences
  • Specific competences in the advisory process
  • Domain specific competences.

His personal drivers, goals and setting in the organization will determine what he is able to offer and what his focus will be in the advisory work or change process he supports.

General competences General competences are aimed at performing in an advisory process and are needed to act with impact in sensitive way:

  • Functional specialism like health management or safety science, business administration
  • Understanding of basic processes of organizing and management
  • Feeling for dynamics of change processes
  • Specific personal professional capabilities to:
    • Act
    • Communicate with client, principle
    • To formulate clearly and well
    • To empathize (with) others and think from different perspectives
    • To learn continuously
    • Act according to principles of professional ethics and with integrity
    • Reflect on personal performance in his or her profession.

Competences in the advisory process

  • To be able to lead acquisition and start up an advisory process
  • To define and “contract" right assignment and to agree on relevant tasks and responsibilities
  • To determine and do (tentative) research and to conceptualize problem at hand
  • To choose change strategy, design recommendations, to explore willingness to change and to develop and evaluate alternative solutions.
  • To implement solutions by choosing intervention strategy, to manage several tactics for influencing people and groups involved
  • To facilitate the change process e.g. transfer of knowledge and expertise, being able to work in diverse of social structures, to coach.
  • To evaluate and to close the advisory process, to reflect on one’s owns role and approach, to listen to constructive criticism and deliver good aftercare.

Domain specific competences

Domain specific competences:

  • Domain specific language and protocols
  • Capable of using domain specific methodology
  • Experience with specific tools, research techniques, statistical analysis
  • Professional level, and if appropriate, a controllable level of expertise e.g. by certification
  • Knowledge of the industry the client system is part of.

Process of management of change


A typical change project needs to have a goal (results envisaged), plan and ambition. When an organization wants to improve its performance, be it in the field of health management, high reliability, resilience or keeping control over new risks like nanotechnology, it is essential to have an explicit view of what an organization needs and wants to establish, what its vision is and what strategy it will deploy. When considering the need and feasibility for a change project, a few issues to consider include: what outcomesare sought, the long- and short-term goals, the ability to organize a concerted approach and the availability of resources needed.

Figure 3 Elements of change process
Figure 3 Elements of change process
source: TNO, Johan K.J. van der Vorm

Change is to realise outcomes one intends:

  • by means of an interaction between relevant actors
  • following a plan in phases and steps
  • by communication and sense making
  • and managed by deliberate interventions of change makers.

A change process has to be supported by leadership, sponsors supporting and delivering resources and interactive communication with the employees concerned. The consultant will deal with only the part of the organization that cooperates with and is the focus of his or her assignment: the client system.

To understand which approach to choose and where to start the change process, one needs to be aware of both the formal and informal organization as a socio-technical environment or system of people interacting and co-creating their future.

Figure 4, A change process takes care of formal and informal aspect of an organisation
Figure 4, A change process takes care of formal and informal aspect of an organisation
source: [6] Interpreted by author from Léon de Caluwé

To really change an organization, it needs to obtain lasting results. A change process has to be designed in such a way that both formal and informal aspects are taken into account in order to have impact. Caluwé [6] has presented a specific view on what kind of processes you can envisage and has given several ways of thinking of these processes a colour name, depending on the underlying assumption:

  • Yellow print think: people will change when their interests are respected and balanced with others. Win-win situations can be created. This approach fits change processes when complex targets or effects need to be realised with several stakeholders and people.
  • Blue print think: people will change when, from the very beginning of the process, a clear and specific result has been defined and complexity is reduced. When the results and the process can be defined, directed and monitored in detail, this is a favourite approach.
  • Red print think: people and organizations will change when the proper human resource management methods will be used to stimulate behaviour e.g. rewarding and punishing, giving and receiving.
  • Green print think: change and learning organizations meet each other. People will be stimulated and learn to adapt to new behaviour and will become conscious about learning opportunities.
  • White print think: change will be continuing. Complexity is taken as room for development. People themselves give meaning to what they experience and find their “natural" way to change and learn.

Both the consultant and the client system being advised need to be conscious about what kind of thinking is paramount. The personal view and approach of the consultant need to fit the organization’s culture, way of cooperation and the way the change process will be organized and communicated.

However, a process of co-creating by the consultant with the client system will start from the moment one is engaged in a task. This can vary from action research type diagnosis resulting in recommendations to well managed consulting of and interaction processes with persons and stakeholders in the client system. The consultant needs to have sensitivity for the group dynamics going on and to have an eye on cooperating forces as well as cells of resistance. The formal and informal side of an organization are both relevant in this respect.

The style of work and design of the change process will require a more socially constructive approach by letting people, groups and teams grow into a new way of working and being creative and cooperative in the solution being developed and/or the way they are implemented. But sometimes a more direct approach may be needed when crisis needs instant solutions and space for interaction and communication is limited. The vision, style of leadership and personal beliefs on how people are able to grow and adapt will determine the prevalent culture, social forces and power structure to both manage and influence. Both the consultant and a principle will together determine what their strategy and tactics will be to reach synergy and adaptation.


The consultant needs several steps to arrive at an approach [7]. These steps may be repeated depending on initial analysis needed, project development to support the change process, the change process itself etc. This all depends on the question at hand. The consultant may deliver advice, take active participation in supporting the change process, be part of managing the process, and deliver specific tasks e.g. train people or moderate workshops etc.

Before starting a process, it is necessary to define an approach. Six elements of the planned change need to be considered:

  • Outcomes (goals, results, direction, improvement, renewal)
  • History (causes, necessity, considerations, context)
  • Actors (roles, parties, social dimension)
  • Phases (steps, arrangements, specificities on content and technicalities)
  • Communication (interaction, cultural aspects, sense making)
  • Guidance (monitoring, how to get hold of key issues, professional attitude, awareness)

The change process basically follows the phases: orient, diagnose, target setting, intervene and implement change and evaluate. An interactive approach of stakeholder and people involved is needed to create a platform for acceptance of the targeted change.

A consultant needs contracting to define his or her role and activities. Change itself can be best understood in terms of adaptation:

  • Unfreezing, moving and refreezing
  • Awakening, mobilizing and reinforcing
  • Energising, envisioning and enabling.


To set up a change process, the consultant needs to organize the relevant preconditions:

  • A principle who needs the performance improvement and has the authority to make decisions and deliver resources
  • A shared vision on a work strategy and cooperation, the way to work (think of the 5 colours) and what the expected outcomes and disturbances are
  • Manager(s) who has (have) the proper leadership to direct and influence the people involved
  • Resources to do the job but also the people who participate individually or in small or large groups, who have necessary expertise to give relevant input and support to the project
  • An organization structure to facilitate and support the change process, e.g. a more or less formal project structure with a project team and project leader and communication/report lines with the principle.

Managing the change process needs to involve relevant stakeholders and actors, to be cyclic, to exchange information between the change process with the change manager and report through the project leader to the principle. The degree of organising the steering formally will depend on the dominant thinking (5 colours). A blue print approach will be more formal than green print approach with a shift from formal management to change leadership. Steering and co-creating change need to interact and are both needed.

Change leadership

Successful changes require a clear strategy and committed leadership as well as people or stakeholders providing resources and sponsoring back-up [8]. Three factors are crucial for the course of change:

  • Stakeholders
  • Actors
  • Leadership
  • Communication and interaction
  • Change of behaviour.

Stakeholder and actor analysis

For any change, stakeholders and actors involved and their relations and (power) positions are relevant and need to be identified. In order to know how change will be accepted, identifying the early adapters and willing groups should be targeted to start up the change process.

To develop and to design a change process, three dimensions are important:

  • The formal steering and monitoring
  • The change itself
  • The learning during and as a result of the change.

To have an organization which supports the change assignment, the steering of the change project needs to be clear:

  • Who has initiative (contact person)
  • Who is the principle and has decision power (go/no go, resources)
  • Who has an interest in the project
  • Who will steer (and “control") the process
  • Who represents employees
  • Who else is involved: suppliers, customers?
  • What is position of consultant?

The consultant and his or her counterpart(s) need to make up an overview of who has the influence to decide and change course, deliver resources, and deliver resources needed (time, money, support communication staff, support experts e.g. supplying information, knowledge). The nature of their influence and how they support or even resist the project is important when choosing the approach and how to monitor and report on progress. The formal and more rationalistic aspects of the projects can be defined based on this analysis as well as the role those stakeholders get in the project. The client system’s prevailing way of thinking (see the five colours), what their experience and attitudes are to adapt and to learn, what the expected way of thinking is and ways of decision making are important for consideration. The consultant needs to decide what position and role during the project he or she offers and is willing and capable to take up. The kind of influences and support he or she is going to deliver depend, among others, on these considerations.

Once the “formal" context for managing the project is set, the change process may start. In fact, it has already begun by translating ambition into actions. So the formal and change process interact more or less and may lead to a cyclic approach when change dynamics and progress are fed back to the principle to check if it still delivers the outcome that is expected.

Looking more in detail to the relevant actors in the change process, it is important to identify:

  • Who is the group that needs to change behaviour in order to realise relevant impact (the performance improvement sought)
  • Who performs key roles in the change process (leadership, role models, sponsors)
  • What are the subcultures involved with synergy and what resistance to change can be expected (who are early adapters to start with, what are the interests and arguments of those resisting change)
  • Who has power to disrupt or resist planned progress
  • What outsiders may have influence in the process
  • Are actors used to be involved in change and adaptation of their organization?

Given this analysis, a structure for cooperation and communication can be developed as part of the change approach. Depending on the culture and experience, a mix of co-creation and learning approaches can be used. But it may be necessary first to make people aware about the necessity to change behaviour and to learn how the new way of working can be done, e.g. new procedure for signalling unsafe situations, the importance of taking care of one’s health at home and at work, the need to cooperate between teams.

If necessary, the chosen formal steering structure needs to be prepared to adapt planning to new insights e.g. invest in extra activities like training to proceed or delay with a subgroup, adapt targets and ambitions or take advantage of sudden synergy and sometimes good luck. This will depend to a great extent on core values, on the vision and target the organization has as well as urgency of relevant changes. In the long-term, this may have influence on human resources management (e.g. developing people and communication oriented team leadership as opposed to technical land expertise driven leadership) and the structure of the organization (improving communication lines and structures).

Leadership and changing behaviour

An important success factor for effective change process is leadership. It is a style of management aimed at renewal or innovation and is people oriented.

A leader:

  • Does the right things
  • Concentrates on the future
  • Embraces change and understands that things move
  • Takes risks
  • Lets him or herself leads using both rationality and feelings
  • Is people oriented and aims at self-management, self-control and self-responsibility
  • Is process oriented and co-creates
  • Provides a role model
  • Uses learning capabilities of people and his or her organization: coaches and facilitates learning.

Change requires leadership that is aimed at changing behaviour. Successful leadership depends on:

  • Mobilizing energy and increasing urgency
  • Building a guiding team to create movement leading to change
  • Getting the vision right and simple
  • Communication to create assurance and buy-in of people involved
  • Creating the right conditions to empower action
  • Creating short-term wins
  • Monitoring and keep sense of urgency
  • Making change sustainable and lasting.

The role of the consultant needs to bring leadership to the forefront and to address these conditions not only by implementing this knowledge in the change approach but also by coaching managers to make them aware of this dimension of management of change and to support them in adapting their behaviour. The ultimate aim is to change the paradigm: the client systems need to learn to diagnose problems themselves, learn to design solutions and learn to adapt.

The consultant may direct and support management to understand this and to aim at changing the culture, develop a learning organization and develop lasting change. This brings back management capabilities not only following the blue print thinking “plan, do, check and act" but also to observe (anticipate and monitor), make sense of new insights, commit to adapt and respond.

Interactive development of OHS projects

To implement changes in OHS performance, several strategies are possible. An interactive approach of projects will be most fruitful to stimulate exchange of knowledge, creativity, and obtain trust and prevent resistance. An interactive approach should:

  • Focus the change process on both people and processes
  • Reach out to people and touch emotions that make change possible
  • Appeal on seeing, feeling, and change
  • Use talents and knowledge of people in organization
  • Create the right working space to let people express their ideas and opinions
  • Teach people to learn
  • Create a just learning culture with values and norms aimed at trust, informing and transparency
  • Stimulate bottom-up initiatives
  • Take care of communication both bottom-up and top-down.

An interactive strategy leads to engagement of people through cooperation and common analysis as well as developing solutions teaches people to understand the essentials of the business processes and their roles. It develops learning capabilities and corrective power needed to improve and renew.

Change is people at work

It is a known fact that including persons involved and that seeking their talents, creativity and change beliefs, will determine lasting change. To overcome or support personal attitudes towards change, a consultant needs to adapt his or her intervention to have influence by: convincing rationally, inspiring, consulting, forming coalitions, negotiating and exchanging, creating positive climate, legitimating, putting pressure and/or appealing. Depending on the target group an intervention may more or less be: using principles, theories and models, act as catalyst, making transparent underlying relationships, be confrontational, or prescriptive and direct.

Empowering people to take up personal leadership and work and learn in teams will provide support and gradually create a new mind set where adaptive capacity and self-steering become a natural aspect of the organization. The organization becomes a learning organization. A process approach will help to acknowledge the culture and context, to develop understanding for the client system (group) a consultant is working with and to act accordingly by the creation of a relationship with the client.

Gaining strategic impact by OHS-development

Change may be the beginning of organisational learning given the continuous changes an organization faces. Change process methods, leadership and interactive approach are important for OSH purposes because it leads to empowering people to be alert for improvement potential, develops capabilities to raise the safety and health culture maturity, engenders eagerness to learn and resilience by improving the capabilities to anticipate, monitor, respond and learn as a team as well as on an organisational level. This will create a firm basis for an adaptive organization able to change continuously and to innovate or to reach ambitious targets like zero-accidents or integrated health management aimed at positive targets. Both of these support vitality and employability of people as well as the organization.

The development of an OSH strategy combined with change management leads to impact by vital people and resilient organizations ready to innovate and to follow local and world-wide changes which will be on-going.

Consultant’s perspectives

The consultant will learn as well from the processes he or she is engaged in. In the meantime, the world of work moves and changes itself. Life and business will provide disturbances and opportunities. New working communities will develop.

As a result, the consultant will and need to adapt by:

  • Building partnerships with organization or internal stakeholders
  • Engaging in continuous learning
  • Creating open mindedness and anticipating future needs
  • Developing and changing proper methods
  • Networking in professional and business circles
  • Changing focus to chains, networks and learning organization(s)
  • Creating working communities to form teams to engage in new propositions and services.


[1] Block, P. (2011),Flawless consulting: a guide for getting experience used Jossey-Bass/Pfeifer Publishers, San Francisco

[2] Maister, D.H. (2008) True Professionalism, The Courage to Care about Your People, Your Clients, and Your Career The Free press, New York

[3] Nathans, H. (1999) Adviseren als tweede beroep, Resultaat bereiken als adviseur Kluwer, Deventer

[4] Orde van organisatiekundigen en –adviseurs,, Leidraad voor de adviseur Body of knowledge and skils of de organisatieadviseur (De BoKS, versie 3.0),

[5] Velde-de Roos, C. van der (2009) De arbo-professional als sterspeler en mensenfluisteraar. De kleurrijke weg van veranderkundige vraagstukken, Paper presented at fitth Congres of Nederlandse vereniging voor Veiligheidskunde, Arnhem

[6] Caluwé, L. de & Vermaak, H., (2003) Learning to change, A guide for organization change agents, Sage Publications, Inc. Thousand Oaks

[7] Schein, E.H. (1998) Process Consulting Revisited, Building and helping relationships Pearson Education

[8] Walters, D. & Frick, K., Worker Participation and the Management of Occupational Health and Safety: Reinforcing or Conflicting Strategies. In K.Frick, P. L. Jensen, M. Quinlan, & T. Wilthagen (eds.), Systematic Occupational Health and Safety Management Pergamon-Elsevier Science, Oxford, 2000, pp. 43-65.

Further reading

Wikipedia Change management

Wikipedia Consultant

Wikipedia Leadership

The European Network of Safety and Health Professional Organisations

The Energy Institute (EI) is the professional body for the energy industry delivering good practice and professionalism across the depth and breadth of the sector.

Select theme


Gerard Zwetsloot

John Klein Hesselink

Johan van der Vorm