The Many Hats of a Safety Manager
Thursday, January 2nd, 2020
There is nothing boring about safety. There’s nothing easy either. You must put in work, effort, and practice to ensure the safety of your site/team. On any given day, Safety Managers can wear several of many hats. Often without notice! Here are some:
Educators – yes, safety managers do educate employees on various topics through formal training sessions, toolbox talks, and one-on-one sidebars. Did you know they also educate management? Safety managers educate/explain the need for things like having their own budgets, the time needed for training staff, development of policies, and buy-in from all levels of the organization. This can be an ongoing process and include the need for developing financial justification as well.
Spokesman – safety managers may be the point person to represent the organization to outside agencies like OSHA, PESH, and various environmental organizations. They need to understand how to navigate inspections, citations, as well as correspondence.
Learners – safety is broad and wide. For this reason, safety managers benefit from attending safety training for areas that may not be their area of expertise. It’s nice to have a network of safety professionals to benchmark and share best practices.
Observers – whether it’s ergonomics or use of required PPE, safety managers benefit from watching how people work. This helps to identify trends for future focus in training, as well as drive continuous improvement of workflow.
Influencers – similar to the role of educator, safety is a continuous pitch to management and staff. Someone has to beat the safety drum, and, yep, it must start with the safety manager. The best-case scenario is to grow a group of safety influences as no one person can do it alone.
Team Player - to get anything done in terms of continuous improvement, a safety manager must be on the larger organizational team. This means give and take while at the same time holding the line of what’s needed to keep people safe and organizational risks at a minimum. While it’s nice to be included on the broader team, a safety manager always needs to remember they need to grow their own team, and not always capitulate to the needs of others.
Investigators – to get to the bottom of injuries and illness, safety managers must dig deep to get to the root cause then correct the underlying issues. This may take time through interviews and onsite investigations; being curious and asking questions rather than simply sweeping incidents under the rug as flukes is what drives continuous improvement and overall safety culture.
Record Keepers – yes, paperwork and more paperwork. It can take up much of a safety manager’s day. It’s important to track the status of written plans, inspections, audits, corrective actions, meeting minutes, policies, accident/incident investigations, OSHA logs, and training records.
Leaders – safety managers benefit from walking their talk. This means, for example, wearing proper personal protective equipment (PPE), doing the hard things like enforcing policies and procedures, and recognizing that their role is to keep people safe and minimize risk to the organization. It’s not their job to be anybody’s friend. It can be a lonely road and why cultivating leadership skills is important.
As Jim Rohn, said, “ A good objective of leadership is to help those who are doing poorly to do well and to help those who are doing well to do even better.”