Are you tired of feeling undervalued in your safety management career? Do you worry about job security when economic shifts occur? In this episode of the Safety Geek Podcast, Brye Sargent, a seasoned Safety Professional with 20 years of experience, shares insights on how to bulletproof your safety management career. Let’s delve into six crucial steps that will not only elevate your position but also ensure long-term career success.

1. Understanding the Market:

To secure your safety management career, it’s essential to understand the current state of the safety job market. Analyze job postings for various safety roles, from specialists to directors. Identify the skills and expertise employers are seeking. Create a plan to bridge any gaps in your qualifications, ensuring your resume aligns with market demands. This proactive approach positions you as a valuable candidate in the competitive job market.

2. Embracing the Unique Position You Safety Management Career Puts You In:

Safety professionals occupy a unique position within organizations, with influence reaching into every department. Use this advantage to broaden your skills. Gain insights into diverse areas like customer service, sales, and operations. By becoming well-versed in multiple facets of the business, you enhance your marketability. This flexibility makes you indispensable during tough times, as you can seamlessly adapt to new challenges.

3. Demonstrating Value to the Company:

While safety may not always appear on the profit and loss statement, it significantly impacts a company’s bottom line. Shift the narrative from dollars saved to dollars earned. Highlight your role as a profit center by showcasing specific instances where your contributions directly impacted the company’s financial success. This perspective reinforces your value and ensures decision-makers recognize your significance during economic downturns.

4. Managing Expenses Effectively:

In times of cost-cutting, showcase your ability to manage expenses by embracing a do-it-yourself (DIY) approach. Understand that while technology is valuable, knowing how to DIY safety programs can save the company money. Whether creating presentations, posters, or training videos, your resourcefulness positions you as a cost-conscious team player, further fortifying your role within the organization.

5. Developing Repeatable Processes:

Crafting repeatable processes is instrumental in ensuring your effectiveness in any company, industry, or team. Establishing a systematic approach to safety management allows you to hit the ground running in new positions. Whether it’s hazard assessments, training programs, or compliance initiatives, having a reliable system enhances your reputation as a seasoned safety professional.

6. Documenting Results for Safety Management Career Longevity:

Maintain a comprehensive portfolio of your achievements and results throughout your career. This tangible record serves as proof of your capabilities, providing valuable evidence during job interviews or performance reviews. Having a documented track record not only showcases your accomplishments but also instills confidence in your ability to deliver results consistently.

Diversifying Your Career

Lastly, remember that your safety management career doesn’t confine you to the safety sector. Consider diversifying into roles such as human resources, operations, or sales. The skills acquired in safety management make you an asset in various positions, offering new opportunities for growth and advancement.

In conclusion, by following these six steps, you can proactively navigate the challenges in the safety management career landscape. Building resilience, showcasing value, and continuously learning will not only safeguard your current position but also open doors to exciting new possibilities in the future. Your safety career is not just about surviving; it’s about thriving in an ever-evolving professional landscape.

Take Action

Consider these comprehensive guidelines as your roadmap to not only thrive in your current safety role but also to solidify your position as an invaluable asset in the dynamic landscape of occupational health and safety.

Bulletproof Your Safety Management Career: Essential Strategies for Success
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Safety Brye: [00:00:00] Do you feel like an underappreciated safety employee? You know how to do the job, but you're constantly second guessed, you're overworked, and you're left out of key decisions. This is a typical stage in the safety management career journey. However, you don't want to stay here for long. If you get stuck being treated like an employee instead of the valuable expert that you are, you may find your company undervalues your position.

And this can be stressful when the economy changes and shifts. And that typically happens every two to four years. So let's talk about bulletproofing your career. Hey there, safety friends. Welcome to the Safety Geek Podcast. I'm Brye Sargent, CSP, and 20 years Safety Professional. After spending years training safety leaders across the globe for a large corporation. And creating safety programs from the

[00:01:00] ground up over and over again. I am now sharing my processes and strategies with you. At The Safety Geek, you will learn how to manage an effective safety program that increases your management support and employee engagement, all the while helping you elevate your position and move up in your career.

If you're ready to step into the role of a safety influencer and leader, you're in the right place. Let's get to it. Alrighty, now let's get to how to bulletproof your career. Now you might be thinking like safety is too important to fire when times get tough when the recession hits. And conditions get hard for your company.

You might be thinking like, no, you're too important to fire. Like that's the last thing they would want to do is fire safety. And you may think that you have job security just because of your position and your role. And safety is a critical role

[00:02:00] within the workplace and within any organization. For one, we are a profit center. We actually make the company money. We positively affect all the other areas of the business, this is one way that we are extremely valuable. And we are so busy. Like our to do list is so long. Who the heck are they going to get to do all that? And that's the thing about safety that a lot of management teams and executives don't understand is that it doesn't matter how many employees you are just to create a safety program and manage it.

It is a lot of tasks. So regardless of if you have 500 employees or 2,500 employees, there are things that have to be done. So the list is really long. So you might be thinking, like, who are they going to get to do all of those things? But all of this, even though you and I, we agree with it. We agree that safety is that important.

My experience has shown me completely different. My experience has shown me that when times get tough, safety is where they start making cuts because they look

[00:03:00] at not just their employees, but they also look at their management teams. And then they're like, well, who could we get to do this? Well, maybe HR can do it.

Maybe quality could do it. Maybe maintenance can do it. Right. It can't be that much. Right. So a lot of times I see safety managers getting laid off when a recession hits, when the economy gets tough, I mean, when COVID hit, which COVID was something that safety should have been part of like, it's a health and wellness thing.

I saw so many safety managers get laid off. So, I don't want you to think that your job is secure just because safety is important. And safety is important, but if you think about the grand scheme of things, think about it from your executive's standpoint, personal safety is something everybody should be practicing anyway.

We shouldn't need a whole department to tell people to work safe. But unfortunately, with human behavior, you kind of do because you have all of these employees that have different thoughts and beliefs. And I'm not going to go down that rabbit hole. But,

[00:04:00] but when you look at it from the executive standpoint, you can see them making that thought. And those connections, regardless of how we disagree with them. So don't sit there thinking my job is secure because safety can't get fired. I remember here's another thing. Every time that the politics of the United States changes from one party to another, we see a shift in safety as well. In fact, when one party enters the power in Congress and the white house. We actually see safety rules get repelled or canceled or told not to be enforced.

And I remember talking to my family one time after an election and I was so concerned and like, it's safety. They're not going to do anything about it. And it was literally one of the first laws they passed was to cancel something or repel something in safety. And I was like, yeah, no, they don't care in safety. So it affects our jobs. So I don't

[00:05:00] want you to think that you have job security just because of what you do. However, there are things that you can do that will help bulletproof your career. I like to say fireproof, but then I think people don't understand that, but I want to make you fireproof. I want to make it so that way when the, you know, when cuts are coming, they're not looking at you to make that cut or if they are looking at you

and if they do cut you that you can just quickly go get another job and there are things that you need to do in order. To make sure that that happens, like I know for myself, because I've done all of these things that next week, if I wanted to go get a job in safety, I can, if I want to go get a job in management, I can, I just have to put my hand up and say, yeah, I am looking for a job and offers will come in because I have done a lot of these things. So number 1 is you need to understand the market. You need to explore the

[00:06:00] current state of the safety job market and really look at what people are hiring for and what expertise that they're looking for and make sure that you have those expertise. So look at the job postings for safety specialist, safety coordinator, safety managers, even look at the job postings for like directors of operations or department managers.

And scroll down to where it says, the requirements or the experience that you have to have and start listing that out and then mark down where you have gaps. Where do I meet this requirement? And where do I don't? And what do I have to do to meet that requirement? So you can start making a plan to make sure that you've got, like

a really beefed up resume on how you can make yourself more valuable. And I also think it's really good to understand what is out there in the job market at any point in your career, because more than likely you were promoted into this position

[00:07:00] and you probably like the company that you're working for and you probably feel a little bit of loyalty to them because they gave you this opportunity.

But I want you to see what's out there because I know that a lot of people get stuck Where they're where they are because of those feelings. So it's always good to know it's out there and even to talk to people about what you could possibly be qualified to do. Right. And always keep those in the back of your mind.

So that way you can start building a plan. So you're meeting the requirements to make you more valuable in the job market. So that's number 1. Number 2 in bulletproofing your career is to understand the unique position that safety is in. Safety is really the only position in any business that has their fingers in every other department. Like you have influence on every other department and every other department needs

[00:08:00] you to help them out with safety. So this could be something is like customer service. It could be merchandising. It could be sales. It could be the obvious of like production and manufacturing and construction and all the real safety sensitive stuff as well.

The point is, is that you're in this unique position to insert yourself in all of these other areas and start learning. You can learn how they do customer service. You can learn how they negotiate prices in purchasing. You can learn, what they're looking for in sales and say, hey, I need to go out and follow a sales guy.

So I understand their safety hazards and what they are exposed to. And at the same time, you could be learning what it's like to be a salesperson, right? You can learn how they measure the success in the business. So that way you can insert yourself in there and that is the unique position you're in. So when you start gaining all the skills from all the other departments, like, you know, how to run an

[00:09:00] operations department, you know, about a little bit of accounting and, and, you know, a little bit about customer service, you know, a little bit about negotiating. When you go into the job market, your resume just looks amazing because you can list all of those skills.

Like, Hey, yeah, I helped our team with negotiations and on purchasing product, and I save them, you know, $10,000 a year on this one product, and we're working on doing it for three others. And that makes you valuable in the marketplace. So basically, and I think I said this in a previous episode where I was like, don't stay in your lane.

Don't stay in your lane, really make sure that you're looking out for yourself and your own skills so that way you could take what you have because like if a warehouse worker all of a sudden wanted to follow a sales guy that just couldn't happen, but because you're in safety, you can do that because you can use safety as the reason for doing that and for learning all of those new skills. So the more skills you have, the more experience you gain and the more

[00:10:00] valuable you are. In the marketplace, so take advantage of that unique position you're in. And you could just use the excuse of, I want to learn all aspects of the business because I affect all aspects of the business. And I want to be able to talk to those people about safety.

Like, I'll never forget the first time I went to a sales meeting. Everyone's like, why are you here? I'm like, well, I want to know about sales. So I want to know what the sales team's doing. And I used the guys, I guess you can say of like, defensive driving training or distracted driving training, and they're exposed to other worksites and I need to see what those exposures are.

But really, I wanted to experience what it was like to be a salesperson for that company and that industry. Alright, number 3 for bulletproofing your career is making sure the company knows how valuable you are. I already told you we're a profit center for the company. We may not be on the profit and loss statement is like a line item, but a dollar saved is a dollar earned and you are

[00:11:00] earning a lot of money for that company. And you need to be able to express that value. So you want to always make sure that you're talking in terms of how much value you added to the company and how many dollars that you added to the bottom line. Too often we talk about dollars saved and really the way that executives see savings is there's only so much you can save, and then you don't make any money.

So it doesn't look like a growth opportunity. It just looks like it's like a shrinking thing. Like, I remember this one time we were talking about injuries, and when I first walked into this company, they were spending 3 million dollars a year on injuries, and I got it down to $100,000. And to me, I was like, I've saved you nearly 3 million dollars a year and they're like, yes, thank you.

But moving forward, there was nothing more to save. So they didn't see the value, right? They're like, well, the most you could save us is this 100, 000 dollars. And we did get it down to 50, I think, in a couple of years. But if I talked instead of I actually

[00:12:00] made you 3 million dollars this year, because if I wasn't here, all those accidents would keep happening. Right? Then that becomes like, oh, you're adding to the bottom line. You are actually valuable to the company. So, really make sure that you're talking in the value that you provide and anything new that you're putting in place, you always want to have an ROI, which is a return on investment and you're sharing that return on investment with the executive team.

So, they start seeing you as somebody who's like a team player for the company. So that when times do get tough they're not gonna want to get rid of you because they need you to keep making them money. Okay. Step number 4 in bulletproofing your career is keeping your own expenses as low as possible, or at least knowing how to do that. Now I know that, right now, there are tons of technologies on the market to help you manage safety and I love them. I think there's some great ones out there. However, when companies are cutting

[00:13:00] costs, you could step up and say, well, we can forgo this technology and actually I can DIY my safety program. And a lot of people do that. I've DIY my safety program. Do it yourself my safety program since gosh, since inception, because every company I worked for had no budget for safety.

And I was given like in a couple of companies, they did give me like a 50 grand budget to buy a software system. And that was great. But most like new acquisitions and companies you're going into, they're in a cost cutting mode and they're not going to put out the money for any type of software. So it was really nice to say that's okay.

I know how to finagle, you know, a PowerPoint presentation to make a slideshow for the break room, or I could use Canva and make my own posters or I can do data analytics on an Excel spreadsheet because you can't afford Tableau or Power BI or anything like that. So knowing how to like

[00:14:00] even create your own videos, like I used to make my own safety videos with the employees instead of paying six or 800 for a training video, which back then that was the cost.

Cause they were on VHS. That's how old I am. They were on VHS and you would buy this one VHS for like $800 and you would use it year over year to train on your fall protection. Right? So instead we just made our own video and I literally took an iPad and recorded it and edited it. I think on iMovie and that was what we use for training.

So knowing how to DIY your safety program and then showing your management team the money you're saving them and that you're part of the team, and you understand that cutting costs is great. Another great way would be your first aid kit, like, I know there's some great first aid services, I was a huge fan of them, filling my first aid kits. So, what I switched to because my boss, I don't know, he had to sign the invoice and he got really angry one

[00:15:00] time and I was, he was actually firing people that day and I did not want to be one of those people and he was so angry about the $150 first aid kit bill and I was like, that's fine. I'll just do it myself moving forward.

And I just filled my own first aid kits, but actually what I switched to was having an employee fill it. So then I had an employee become an advocate for first aid and become my first day trainer. And that was a whole nother a whole nother thing that I actually teach you inside a safety management Academy.

If you get the bonus for the compliance area coordinators. But, anyway, just know how to DIY your safety programs that way, when times get tough, you can actually step up and show them that you can save them money. And this is also great for interviewing. Like if you're interviewing for a job and you could say, look, I know a lot of safety people come in with like no technological skills or no marketing skills. I'm coming to you with all of this so that you actually get me to do it as opposed to hiring, you know, a company out to provide

[00:16:00] posters or training or any of that. It's not an ideal situation, but it's nice to know that you can do it and that you could be that team player for that company. Number 5 is develop repeatable processes.

So when you can have a system, which is this is what I teach inside of Safety Management Academy when you can have a system that works in any company, any industry with any group of people, and you can just insert it. Then that makes you more valuable, not just with your current employer, but when you get hired on with a new company as a safety manager or director or whatever it is, they expect you to hit the ground running.

They're not going to be providing you with any training. They're like, okay, you're good to go. And why is this? It is because the people hiring you don't know how to do your job. So there's nobody there to train you. So they want you to be hitting the ground running. And if you could just go in and say, here's my system, and this is what we're going to implement. And it

[00:17:00] works for any industry, any company, any organization. It's helps, develop culture. It helps develop management support. It creates the company money. You're more valuable, right? It just makes your job easier. This is also allowed me to go to work for companies that have small safety departments, usually a department of one, just me.

But I can do that because I have processes in place that gain management support and get the supervisors engaged in all of that. So I think it's really important to have those repeatable processes. So whatever you're currently doing, make sure that you know what you're doing. So when you go to the next company or the next team, you have a way of just going, let me insert this right here and you know, it works.

Right, it's a workable product. Like, it's just going to work. And that was the point that I had gotten to. And that's why I feel confident. Like, anybody hires me today as a safety manager. I don't need training. I may need to know how to get into your systems, but

[00:18:00] I can learn that, but I'm just going to walk in and day 1, I have a process. I do a hazard assessment. I get to know everybody, you know, and I start installing all of my processes that work my safety management cycle. If you haven't taken my free course, then you definitely need to see that to see what the safety management cycle is. So that is number 5. Make sure that you have processes and repeatable processes that you can just insert wherever you go.

And the last one to bulletproofing your safety career that I wanted to touch on was to make sure that you are always documenting your results. You want to build a braggable track record of results, and you want to keep this off site. You keep this at your home. It's your own little work portfolio of everything you've done and everything you've accomplished.

So that way, no matter where you go, you can say, here's proof that I am an asset to your company. I was going to use a bad word there, but

[00:19:00] I'm an asset to your company. I'm valuable. You want to hire me. And this is also proof come annual review time or performance review time. You can say, look at everything I've done over the last year.

And look at all the money I've made the company. It makes you more valuable, but it just gives you that proof. And a lot of times what happens, especially when we, we are just starting out and we don't know to do this, or when we just go into a new company and get started and there's so much to do, you don't have time to document anything.

Taking this extra step and protecting your career is vitally important. So you always want to make sure you just document what, where you were, where they were when you started, what was it costing them, what were the actual numbers of compliance or whatever it is you're doing. Then you implement your thingy, you know, maybe it's a safety shoe program, maybe it's a lockout tagout program, maybe it's, you know, a lifting program, whatever it is that you're implementing. And then you measure the results afterwards and you calculate an ROI.

[00:20:00] It's a one sheet, basically, like an after action review. It is just a one sheet, so that way you can, you can just throw it into a binder and you can have it ready for whenever you are interviewing and whenever you are looking for that next opportunity.

So I hope that that helps you. Those are the 6 steps for bulletproofing your safety career. I'm sure I could probably think of 6 more if I wanted to, but I think these are the most important for you to really be considering right away. But one of the things that I wanted to end with was the misconception that once you are in safety, you have to stay in safety.

So, as you are trying to bulletproof your career, this kind of goes back to my number two of understanding the unique position that you're in, that as you are looking at your career arc and your future and where you want to go. It's okay if you

[00:21:00] don't stay in safety. In fact, safety managers who go into other positions end up excelling at them because of the skills that they learned in safety.

And we need more safety advocates in those other positions, like the best operations managers I've ever worked with had a foundation in safety. So they were excellent at their jobs and made the company tons of money and they also had a really good safety record. So just know that when you are looking at your career growth, or let's say that times get tough and you do have to go look for another job.

You don't have to stay in safety. You can diversify and you can do other things. Human resources is very similar to safety. I like to go more towards the operations end and the sales end and the management end, just because you get a higher salary with those, but just, just know, like, you're not stuck. So I never want anybody to feel worried or stressed

[00:22:00] out about losing their job because I want you to feel like it doesn't matter if I lose my job. Because I can go get another one tomorrow or next week, or maybe it might take you a month or two, but, you know, you can go get another one, right? And when you have that feeling of like, I'm here by choice because I could just go somewhere else, it empowers you.

It gives you a lot more confidence. So that is what I want for you, my safety friend. But in order to get you there, we need to make sure that you put some steps in place to protect what you're doing now and that you are constantly learning so that you're ready for the next thing. Alrighty, I hope that helps you and I will see you in the next episode.

Bye for now.

Highlights From This Episode:

  • Navigating Safety Careers: Strategies For Success in the Dynamic Safety Job Market
  • Proactive Job Security: Addressing Challenges to Secure Your Position During Economic Shifts
  • Strategic Skill Alignment: Aligning Safety Skills with Industry Demands for Career Advancement
  • Holistic Growth Strategies: Inserting Yourself into Departments for a Diverse Skill Set and Growth
  • Efficient Safety Processes: Establishing Repeatable Processes for Organizational Success
  • Showcasing Achievements: Building a Portfolio for Tangible Proof of Safety Successes

NOW IT’S YOUR TURN

It’s time to take control of your safety career and prepare for future uncertainty. Become a member of the Safety Management Academy and allow me to walk you through the process of bulletproofing your career.

Whether you’re just starting your career or seeking to elevate your expertise, this is the platform where aspirations meet achievements.

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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.

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