EHS Management

When Safety’s Your Job Too

Insist on Top Management Support and Participation

As with most any organizational project, the first step is to gain management support. And experienced safety people know that management can’t just be supportive—they have to show it. They have to let everyone in the organization know that safety comes before productivity. If top management won’t support that premise, then you’ll never get anyone else to support it. Support includes resources, access, and participation.

  • Resources for safety. This means reasonable budget allocations for safety training materials, safety signs, posters, lockout equipment, etc. It also means commitment to time for investigations, safety meetings, and so on.
  • Access to the top for safety. In addition, safety personnel need to have access to upper management so that safety concerns can be aired at high levels in the structure.
  • Frequent and enthusiastic participation. Management must be present at safety awards, at training, and must take an active role.

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OSHA says “In an effective program, management regards worker safety and health as a fundamental value of the organization and applies its commitment to safety and health protection with as much vigor to other organizational goals.”

Clarify Responsibilities: Yours, Management’s, Employees’

One problem that can easily sidetrack the best safety efforts is lack of clarity about responsibility. Lay out the safety responsibilities for the following groups:

  • Top management
  • Safety officer
  • Safety committee members
  • Managers and supervisors
  • Employees with special responsibilities such as first aid, firefighting, or emergency shutdown
  • All employees

In each case, try to be specific. Spell out who performs each major safety task and how and where they get the resources to accomplish it.

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Encourage Employee Involvement

Most experts believe that for a safety program to work, employees must be involved. There are two important aspects to this.

  • Build in employee involvement. When planning how to structure and operate your safety program, and when making decisions that affect employee safety and health, build in employee participation every step of the way.
  • Insist that participating employees be supported. Managers and supervisors must be truly supportive. They do this actively by encouraging participation, but also by their attitudes.

For example, they can’t act annoyed when an employee needs time off to attend a safety meeting. You can’t have employees thinking, “Being on this safety committee is going to hurt my career chances.”

Create a Safety Culture

It’s not enough to have a policy and a program. Safety managers need to think in terms of developing a safety culture–a workplace in which safety is part of the landscape, a routine presence in every employee’s work habits. Here are some of the things that will help:

  • Publicize your commitment. Make sure safety is mentioned at all employee meetings, gatherings, training sessions, etc.
  • Involve employees. As mentioned above, the more employees feel they have had a hand in creating the program, the more committed they will be to carrying it out.
  • Have an active safety committee.  See these easy strategies for setting up a safety committee from BLR’s Safety Daily Advisor.
  • Develop a complaint system. Make sure employees know where to go, and make sure to investigate, take action, and get back to the employee.
  • Consider incentive programs. Many employers have found that incentive programs help to focus attention on safe behavior.

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Are safety incentive programs right for your organization? See these Safety Daily Advisor articles to find out:

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