Oops! This was not meant to happen!

Oops! This was not meant to happen!

j0341502Nobody was supposed to question South Africa’s readiness to deal with Health & Safety and Emergency Management issues!

Who would dare question the number of advanced life care paramedics in this country (Carte Blanche – http://www.mnet.co.za/mnet/shows/carteblanche/ – See paramedics show)?

Now we have the fire chief at Cape Town Airport resigning ( http://tinyurl.com/c8ltmm) after information was released showing that two-thirds of the 62 fire fighters stationed at Cape Town International Airport are “poorly trained” and have little or no general fire fighting experience.

Both reports are scandalous and raises some serious questions and concerns about levels of preparedness for crises and emergencies in organisations.

Do you want to tell me that the authorities do not know or understand that Health & Safety is an international non-negotiable right and directly involved in the creation of a favourable reputation of a country and its people? (Emergency management is an integral part of the Occupational Health & Safety Act)

No wonder that today’s Star reports that an international tourism expert Linda Pereira said that myths and negative perceptions abroad about South Africa’s high rate of violent crime could prevent the desired number of foreign visitors from attending next year’s Fifa World cup (See article on Page 7 of The Star newspaper today).

I guess the word myths is a misnomer, because every day more and more negative publicity is coming to the fore of this country’s non-readiness state. Whilst she is correct that tourism bodies must try and dispel negative perceptions, it is pointless if other parties do not understand the value of a country’s reputation.

How dumb can leadership be? Last year we had the investigation into Mine Safety, and that put our mining sector under the spotlight. Did the rest of the country really think they were going to stay immune? This is the problem about managers not understanding reputation and issues management. An Issue in one sector can spiral into other sectors. And in South Africa, there are still managers who do not realise the damage articles and negative TV programs can do to a country.

The two examples are classical Reputation Risk case studies. It is obvious that there have been an inability to deal, with issues at source and when they are small.

It is also clear that for too long, management has paid lip-service to Health & Safety issues. In most organisations , even the liberated ones, OHASA matters have been seconded to a second –tier individual with an attitude of ‘’we will deal with it when it comes’’. In many organisations, executives are always too busy to attend OHASA committees, ask any Health & Safety representative.

Why? Well, I think the reason is simple. Managers and staff are instructed to be Health & Safety, and never sold the real reasons why, as well as the long-term benefits. Most managers take is…again we will deal with it when it comes…

Dealing with issues and complying with matters such as basic Health & Safety standards are not just compliance or Public Relations responsibility, the process plays a part in building the reputation of an institution or country.

What managers need to understand is that reputation manifests when perceptions and reality meet, and the reality is that South Africans will have to do a whole lot more to build, sustain and protect this beautiful country’s reputation.