"Ten tips for a new safety director."October 16, 2009 by Mike Strawbridge
The job of safety director can and should be one of the most rewarding jobs in industry. After all, you get paid to make sure people have a happy and safe day at work - or at least that they leave with the same number of fingers and toes that they come in with.
If you are taking over and existing program, you are gong to be expected to improve no matter how good the previous person was. If you are just starting a new safety program, you will be faced with the challenges of changing the way people think about safety.
Here are some important tips that will help guide you to having a successful experience as a safety director:
- Know your personal goals. In order to feel successful in any job, you have to know how that job fits into your own life goals. Know what your expectations are of your self. Make sure you have personal goals that are satisfied by this job.
- Know and understand your company’s stance on safety. While most major companies have a genuine interest in keeping their employees safe and highly motivated, some companies have safety programs because they have to. Again make sure the companies goals align with your personal goals.
- Get to know your workers. Spend time on the factory floor. Make the workers feel comfortable talking to you. You will get a lot more cooperation from them in times of change if they feel you really care about their safety.
- Really care about the safety of the employees. Remember that assembly line workers have a different attitude toward work than professionals. While you may never consider doing an unsafe act at work, many employees will do whatever it takes to keep a job or to look like a hero at work. Understand the motivation of the employees and take the precautions necessary to protect them.
- Focus on real problems. While the number of potential hazards in a facility are infinite, there will likely be a few major areas that cause real problems for employees. Start in these areas before moving on to far fetched potential problems. I once had a maintenance worker injured installing a guard over something that had been exposed for twenty years and never caused an injury.
- Network with other safety professionals. You will gain knowledge beyond value by talking with others who are faced with the same problems you are. Find out what works and what does not work in safety networking meetings. You can join a local group of safety professionals as well as communicate with others safety directors within your company.
- Always be loyal to your company. Resist the temptation to whine and complain because your company will not give you all the resources that you ask for. Never reveal any potential hazards or violations outside your own company. If you have a problem with the way things are done, discuss it with your boss or seek another job. Don’t set yourself up to be the scapegoat when things go wrong.
- Accept the responsibility for the safety of the workers. Don’t be afraid to stop a machine or a job that is being preformed in an unsafe manner. If you have taken the time to get to know the workers and the jobs that they perform, you decision will be respected.
- Keep accurate records. Even if you think your safety numbers will look better if you don’t record certain data, you will never be able to make good decisions without good data.
- Get a mentor or a coach to guide you. Handling safety issues can be very stressful when things go wrong. You need someone you can trust to share ideas and concerns. A mentor or coach can also help you maintain focus on your own goals so that your work fits into living a satisfying and successful life. Your mentor or coach can also be a big help at salary review time to assist you in wording your list of accomplishments so that your employer understands how valuable you are to the company’s bottom line.
Mike Strawbridge October 16, 2009
Mike is available for coaching of safety professionals by email, phone or in person. Contact Mike for more information or to design a custom coaching program for your situation.
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