Managing workplace safety may seem like something foreign or complicated. But when you’re first starting out, all you need to know are a few basics of safety management. Once you have these down, it’s easy to expand your skills from there.
Starting out as a new safety manager, or if you’re starting in a new company, it is a big deal. You’re probably feeling a little trepidation. There are so many expectations put on you, and inside you’re thinking, “Where do I even start!”
This is greater when your brand new or if it’s been unexpectedly added to your list of duties.
Regardless of your level of expertise, there are some basics of safety that every workplace must-have.
I like to think of these as the foundational pieces of occupational safety and health. Without these, you can’t improve your program or excel as a safety manager.
The four basics of safety management are:
- Accident procedures and claims Management
- Being familiar with applicable regulations and rules of law
- Training employees
- Inspecting the facility for hazards
Step 1: Accident Procedures and Claims Management
Before you do anything else, the first basics of safety management MUST be in place.
Accidents are, by definition, unexpected. So, on the first day of your job, you need to know what to do if one happens.
Set up a time to talk with your human resources department and your facility managers. Get an understanding of how accidents are handled by the company.
You’ll need to know the following information:
- How are the accidents reported? Injury and auto accidents.
- What medical facilities are used?
- What accident reporting forms are in place?
- Who and how is it reported to the insurance company? If it’s online, you may need to get login credentials.
- What’s the follow-up procedure currently in place? How and who is informed of the employee’s condition or restrictions?
- What kind of light-duty or restricted duty does the company use?
This list is not everything that’s included in a complete claims management program. But it’s a good start for the first few days.
Once you know how accidents are currently managed. You can go to work to improve them.
Good Claims Management Creates Easy Wins for Safety Managers
Accident claims are “low hanging fruit.” It’s usually an area ripe for improvement, and the payoff to the company can be huge.
Most companies rely on another member of management to handle claims. Especially when they don’t have a dedicated safety manager. This results in the claim getting paid for, but the costs are never controlled.
It can be very easy for medical and accident costs to get out of hand. This is especially true when the company has a high deductible insurance plan. The insurance company’s adjuster has no incentive to reduce costs. That is unless the costs get close to the deductible.
Thus, cost control falls to the company. More specifically, the Safety Manager.
Get to Know Your Insurance Company and Adjuster
Become familiar with your company’s insurance program. Plus, what’s included. Many times, there are benefits in the program to work with a Risk Management Specialist. These resources can help improve your skills and your safety program.
If you have a dedicated claims adjustor or two, set up a time to have a conversation with them. Let them know that you’re now the contact person. Share your goal of reducing costs and ask for their help. They can give you tips on handling the claims on your end.
Have a Meeting with your Medical Provider
The post “How to Prevent Workers Comp Lawsuits“ outlines several tips for claims. Even if you’re not ready to work on the legal side, that article is a good read.
One of the tips is developing a relationship with your medical provider. This is an essential Basics of Safety Management.
You need to know what happens when you send your employees for treatment. This meeting will allow you to introduce yourself and meet them. Take the opportunity to communicate your goals with them.
You can share your job descriptions. Tell them what restricted job duties you can offer injured workers. Make sure they understand that you’re there to help them get the workers back to 100%.
Improve or Reinforce your Accident Reporting Procedures
Now that you’re with the company. Make the Safety Program your own.
Setting up programs is not one of the Basics in Safety Management in this article. But you can start to improve your program with accident reporting.
Review the paperwork. You now know how the insurance company works, what doctors to use, and the follow-up paperwork.
Make sure all the forms on your end are meeting the requirements. That you’re getting all the information, you need right away to manage the accident and the claim.
Set up procedures that you want everyone to follow. Ensure outstanding claims management. Expressing that the goal is to care for the employee and get them 100% back to normal.
Once you have your program set up – train your employees and managers. Training is a Basics of Safety Management. Make training on accident procedures your first one.
Step 2: Get Familiar with Applicable Safety Regulations
You can’t do your job without this Basics of Safety step. You must know and understand the regulations that apply to your company.
This is your foundation. Exceptional safety managers go way beyond what’s required by law. But when you’re new, this is your starting point.
Even when you have been in this career for a while, you need to pay attention to the regulations. One of your first steps must be identifying what regulations you need to follow. Do this for every new company you work for.
For most companies, there are five main regulatory areas to start off with. These apply to general industry and most construction companies.
If you operate in mining or agriculture, there are other compliance regulations. As well as other governing bodies that oversee those operations.
Some products or supplies have the potential to do harm to the public. Those companies may also have to follow the Department of Homeland Security rules.
Learning the Basics of Safety Regulations
The best way to get started learning about the applicable regulations is to take an entry-level class. There are training specialists for each of these regulatory areas. Google is your best bet.
Many of the regulations are accessible online through the regulatory body. But some, like the NFPA, don’t offer their rules at no charge.
In that case, you’re required to meet the rules. Even though you can’t read them without paying hundreds of dollars. (it doesn’t make sense to me either)
Once you understand the basics of safety regulations, identify which ones are applicable. It’s as easy as reading the regulation and saying “yes” or “no” to – Does this apply to us?
Take your list of every regulation that applies to your company. Build your program, inspection, and training plans around it.
Step 3: Safety Training Including New Hire Training
Conducting regular and ongoing safety training is a must for all companies.
In step 2, you identified all the regulations that apply to your organization. For each regulation, find out what the required training is. This included what to train on, the specifics of the training, and when to retrain.
Safety training doesn’t necessarily need to be facilitated by the Safety Manager. It could be a certified trainer in a specific area, the front-line supervisor, or someone else.
But, having one person accountable for meeting the training requirements is essential. This will ensure that nothing gets missed. That’s where a training matrix and calendar come in handy.
Ideally, the Safety Manager would organize the training plan. They would assist in the creation of the training materials. They would audit the training and maintain the documentation. And in a lot of cases, facilitate the training themselves.
If managing safety is new to you, this could be one of the most intimidating tasks. You may feel a little bit like an imposter. You’re still learning yourself. And teaching others what you barely know can be intimidating.
The best answer to this is to jump in. The best way to learn something is to teach it. If you feel shaky at first, that’s ok. Keep going, keep making your training better, and keep practicing. Within a few months, leading safety training will be second nature.
Step 4: Conduct Regular Facility Inspections
The last basics of safety management is inspections. This is obviously not the last thing you need to be doing as a Safety Manager. But in the basics, this will get you going and ready for all the other fun stuff to come.
Even when starting at a new company, getting inspection processes set up is one of the first tasks. Before you work on policies, procedures, JHAs, SOPs, behaviors, trending, and so on.
Break your inspections into the type of inspection.
- General Facility
- Equipment Specific
- Regulation Specific
- Daily, Weekly, Monthly, or Quarterly
Create an inspection matrix. Layout what needs to be inspected, on what schedule, and who does the inspection.
As a rule of thumb, the entire facility must be inspected every quarter. 100% of the facility. Every nook and cranny.
The good news is, you don’t have to do it alone. With your list of what needs to be inspected and how often, you can determine who’s responsible. The best person or group of people to do the inspection. It may not be you.
- Daily inspections can be done by front line supervisors.
- Equipment inspections by the operators.
- Regulation specific ones completed by a competent and trained person.
- General ones by you. (with the safety committee as well)
As the basics of safety management go, your first step is creating this plan. For each inspection, create a documentation form.
How to Conduct a Safety Inspection
When you’re new to safety and still learning, doing an inspection may feel foreign. You may not know what to look for or even what you’re looking at. There’s a fear you’ll miss something.
Start with your regulations. For each requirement in the regulation, include it in your safety inspection form.
Doing this will make your safety inspection form very long. But as you conduct your safety inspections over and over again, you’ll learn what’s redundant. You can then shorten your forms and make them more focused.
As you’re walking your facility looking for safety hazards, keep these questions in mind:
- How can someone get hurt?
- What if this happens……
- What’s the worst that could happen?
If you get a gut feeling like something isn’t right, trust it. Your intuition is your guide to look into further. This is how you’ll learn the operation and the regulations best.
Going Beyond the Basics of Safety Management
This was just a start.
The job will definitely expand from there.
As accidents happen, you’ll create corrective actions. You’ll develop safe work procedures.
Your education and understanding of the profession will expand by taking classes, attending seminars, or going to safety conferences.
This will lead to better safety training and inspections.
As you will find out, the job of improving workplace safety is never done.
Now It’s Your Turn
These are my 4 Basics of Safety Management. What are yours? Do you start off differently when you’re starting out in a new company?
What was your first task when safety was added to your list of responsibilities?
Let me know in the comments below – I can’t wait to hear about it.
Hi, I'm Brye (rhymes with sky)! I am a self-proclaimed safety geek with two decades of general industry safety experience. Specializing in bringing safety programs to a world-class level and building a safety culture, I have trained and coached many safety managers, just like you, on how to effectively manage workplace safety in the real world. I would love to help you too.