A recent article in Safety+Health provides some sweeping lessons for newly minted safety professionals. Titled “You’re in charge of safety – now what?”, the article outlines advice from experienced safety folks, including SafeStart’s senior safety consultant Danny Smith.
Not everyone has plans to become a safety professional. For Smith and many others, it’s a matter of a company executive recognizing the need for someone to be in charge of safety and tapping a current employee to shift into the new role. Or even a recent safety graduate coming into a company, if you don’t have access to resources like our free EHS Careers Guide, it can seem quite daunting to suddenly have to start building the skills and knowledge required to prevent injuries and save lives.
As the article suggests, one of the first steps is to start getting a handle on the scope of the job and making connections with both frontline workers and senior executives. Smith points out that it’s also a good idea to get caught up on OSHA regulations. But it’s good to keep in mind that while learning should start with OSHA, it definitely shouldn’t end there. After all, the OSHA top ten list can be useful but preventing common injuries like slips, trips and falls requires more than adhering to government requirements.
It’s also important to understand the financial side of safety. As Smith says in his article “The Other Side of the Coin”, there are serious financial implications to safety performance:
The link between finances and safety isn’t hard to see. According to the National Council on Compensation Insurance, the average medical cost of lost-time claims is $36,592. Because that number has risen every year since 1995, the cost of the medical treatment of workplace injuries is likely to continue increasing. The result is a rough equation that is as simple as it is self-evident: If you reduce the number of workplace injuries, then you potentially reduce the workers’ compensation premiums your company has to pay.
If you’ve already made connections with the CFO and other C-suite executives who are attuned to the bottom line, learning to make a business case for safety can help get you the resources you need to implement a new initiative or hire outside safety help.
Speaking of help: Smith and others recommend getting lots of it. From soliciting workers’ insights with the use of near-miss reports to networking with experienced EHS folks at safety conferences, it can be incredibly valuable to learn from others.
Learning from others isn’t just for new-to-safety folks either—in fact, it becomes even more important as safety professionals begin to explore more advanced concepts like human factors. In the article, Smiths notes that “you can’t do everything by yourself … especially if you have a multifaceted role.”
This is why it’s so vital to make use of resources to aid you in tackling challenging issues like human factors. From watching webinars to better understand the problem to getting a proper assessment of how you’re faring in human factors management, bringing in outside help is an important part of success as a safety manager—and that’s true whether you have decades of experience or it’s your first day on the job.