The modern QHSE manager’s role in today’s construction

Written by LetsBuild

Follow us


Share this story

Lean ebook cover

Once upon a time, there was an H&S (health and safety) manager whose role expanded to an HSE (health, safety and environment) manager. At that same time, there was a quality manager whose roles were completely separate from the HSE supervisor.

But as technology got more and more integrated into the workflow and as demand for speedy quality service and products increased, the roles have merged into one QHSE manager.

Sometimes still referred to as the HSE manager, or the Q and HSE manager, or the EQHS manager, the QHSE manager is in charge of monitoring all the quality, health, safety and environment aspects of a construction project. As we all know, QHSE are a crucial aspect of any construction project. They must be controlled by the QHSE manager in collaboration with all project stakeholders—clients, contractors, subcontractors, and other partners.

What is QHSE training?

QHSE training refers to training courses and resources designed to support the continual improvement in QHSE (Quality, Health & Safety and Environmental) throughout an organisation. The term, QHSE, is usually interchangeable with QESH (Quality, Environment, Safety and Health), EHS (Environment, Health and Safety), and HSE (Health, Safety and Environment). The goal of QHSE training in a company is to maintain fully comprehensive compliance with all relevant QHSE standards and to ensure that all individuals in your QHSE team have the necessary skills and knowledge.

Free Ebook: Guide to a digitised QHSE organisation

QHSE training usually covers the ISO 9001 Quality Management System training for obtaining consistent quality in products, services, and operations to ensure that your team has the knowledge and skills to attain sustainable ISO 9001 compliance. There’s also the QHSE ISO 14001 Environmental Management System program that trains for the ISO 14001 standards and involves the provision of framework for sustainable development specifically in the control and monitor of an organisation’s environmental aspects. And, of course, there’s the ISO 45001 that provides the framework for specifically safeguarding your workers by preventing workplace injuries and illnesses. Depending on the kind of construction projects your company is involved in, you may also need to train your QHSE team for industry-specific courses.

What does a QHSE manager do?

Typically, the QHSE manager is in charge of maintaining and improving the existing ISO Quality System of a construction company. The QHSE manager is the one responsible for investigating and recording quality non-conformances and takes the lead in root cause analysis and corrective actions. Additionally, the QHSE manager is responsible for collecting, analysing and reporting quality, health, safety and environment statistics to higher management.

All activities related to the quality system falls under the planning, organising and control of the QHSE manager. These activities include meetings, training, and updating documentation for all aspects of the quality system. It’s integral that the QHSE manager communicates with management, on-site workers, and stakeholders to continuously integrate QHSE into all the core operations.

The focus of every QHSE manager

Companies should take their QHSE system approach very seriously. Every QHSE manager should focus on these following objectives:

  1. To provide safe, secure and healthy working conditions for all ADEB-VBA workers
  2. To deliver safe, high quality and environmentally responsible products and services
  3. To stimulate the accountable use of resources
  4. To achieve zero incidents on all construction sites

Regardless of a company’s corporate policy on QHSE and good governance, best practice in the EU requires construction businesses and projects to comply with the following international standards and EU’s building codes and directives:

What qualifications do you need to be a safety officer?

An occupational health and safety officer (OHSO) is a crucial part of any construction organisation and is responsible for creating a safe working environment for all employees and ensuring labour and safety compliance. To be a fully qualified safety officer (OHSO), here are the requirements needed:

  • A certificate saying you have passed an occupational health and safety officer course
  • A certificate from a relevant professional body
  • Additional related certifications allow you to specialise in the construction industry (for example, certificates in Facilities Management/Labour Law/Environmental Law)

Today’s construction industry

The construction industry is the EU’s largest industry employer with a total of 18 million people in the workforce that contributes 9% to the European Union’s GDP.

However, it is a troubled sector, which has been haunted by many issues and concerns for years. The industry has a reputation for being risk-averse, resistant to change and not very innovative. The low productivity growth of only 1% over the last twenty years is one of the lowest across all industries.

Read more: QHSE in construction – A detailed guide

Before the rise of startups focused on construction productivity, it was one of the least digitalised with little R&D investment. Waste, environmental friendliness and energy efficiency are still lingering problems with the sector experiencing labour shortages in many countries.

Safety is also a noteworthy concern with relatively high mortality and injury rates. In fact, Eurostat’s 2014 data showed close to 3.2 million non-fatal accidents that resulted in at least four calendar days of absence from work and 3,739 fatal accidents in the 28 EU countries. More than 1 in 5 (20.9%) fatal accidents at work took place within the construction sector.

All work activities are covered by quality, health, safety and environmental regulations and guidelines. The rules which are most relevant to construction are mentioned in the previous section. The industry is also plagued with structural problems that are attributed to misalignment of interests among stakeholders, which is demonstrated in flawed contracts and risk-sharing – construction projects are fragmented and not always transparent.

With an increase in project complexity and size, inefficiencies in project management persist. However, there is hope with innovative companies leading the way in digitising and standardising construction processes.

Current construction trends

As the industry started embracing innovation over the past five years, we have seen a renewal and stimulation in construction growth. Most trends we see in the construction industry are technology-related, driven by digitalisation and other emerging technologies, or impacted by technological innovations.

Among these is the trend towards eco-friendliness and environmental concern, energy efficiency, and renewable energy sources. The “greening of construction” is emerging from the ideas of reducing carbon footprints and the conservation of resources.

This is impacting building designs and the construction process, which is reflected in the EU’s Energy Performance of Buildings Directive which promotes the improvement of the energy performance of buildings. This “greening” is leading to smart buildings and the use of intelligent electronics.

The QHSE manager’s role in a fast-changing sector

People engagement

Because of the cultural shift brought about by the integration of technology to construction and QHSE processes, QHSE managers have an added task to their plate—they have a solid role to play in involving everyone in the improvement or the change in quality, health, safety and environment systems.
Convincing everyone in a company to completely abandon a familiar QHSE system for a new one is not an easy job. However, it is highly important to engage all employees so QHSE digitalisation can be influenced from the bottom up. Here are four useful tips for helping your teams shift their mindset:

  • Align your vision and values with your employees.
  • Promote a narrative for adoption.
  • Grow with your learning curve.
  • Start slow and finish strong.

For an elaboration on these four tips, head over to another article that discusses them and more on how you can get your employees involved in your QHSE initiatives.

Tool selection

Getting software to assist you with your project and QHSE compliance is not an easy task. Finding the perfect QHSE tool requires a thorough and structured process. The modern QHSE manager is most likely to be the main person involved in strategising in choosing a tool for the company. Here are some concepts to keep in mind:

  • Find a partner, not just a software
  • Find a tool that encourages user adoption
  • Find a tool that would support ongoing improvements of your business processes over the long term

Process improvement

Implementing a digital change to a company’s QHSE processes goes beyond replacing the traditional methods with a mobile gadget and getting all employees to use them. Once a tool has been selected and a culture of adoption has been set, the QHSE manager has to retrain all QHSE personnel and redefine all processes around how the QHSE team would be using a specific tool or a combination of instruments.

This would lead to a new and better way of doing your company’s QHSE with a daily impact on the work of your managers and people working in the field. Digitising your processes is all about creating new operating models that make you more efficient. Digitising a process without optimising it is a waste of time and money. Digitisation is always about improving processes. Once you have optimised and digitised, you can proceed to standardise and make a benchmark for your operations wherein your only option is to develop further.

Further reading: The QHSE manager’s guide to coaching their employees.

Because management plays such a huge key role in showing leadership during these changes in your QHSE systems, there are three underlying management principles you have to take note of that are very crucial for enhancing QHSE in your company:

  • Effective and strong leadership
  • Involving workers
  • Ongoing assessment and review

The shift to a digitised QHSE cuts down errors and increases productivity and leaves you with more time to focus on strategising and improving your processes. And your QHSE manager has a huge role to play to determine the success of this transition.