You have started a job as a brand new safety manager. Congratulations, now what? If your company is like most, there’s only one safety manager, so you’re expected to come to the position knowing what to do.
Here are 5 simple steps to take in those first few weeks that will set you up for success in safety manager training and set the tone for a safety department run under your leadership.
GET TO KNOW THE ENTIRE MANAGEMENT TEAM
As the safety manager, you will be interacting with the whole management team and their employees. These are the first people you want on your side, so start building relationships with them on day one.
The first interaction with them was in the morning or during the weekly manager’s meeting. You were introduced to the entire team simultaneously, still making the one-on-one introduction. This step of going out of your way to see them will start you off in a positive light.
Don’t wait to be introduced. Go and introduce yourself face-to-face.
Ask to speak with them further about their job and goals. Part of your safety manager training process should be to set up a meeting time within the next few days. Asking for a time to meet instead of dropping in shows you respect their time. It will also allow for a more extended discussion without interruptions (fingers crossed).
When you have this meeting, put the focus on them, not you. Building relationships is always about the other person and how you can help them.
Your goal is to walk away knowing:
- A little bit about them as a person; likes, interests, family, hobbies
- What their role is in the company; what they do
- What their goals are both professionally and what they are bonused on, if possible
- Their communication style – data, summaries, texts, emails, face-to-face
- What they expect out of you and the safety department
- Anything they need immediate help with
Learning this information sets a strong foundation for a mutual working relationship. You will be able to craft your messages around what their goals and needs are. They will see you as a valuable addition to the team. You will break through that awkward phase of getting to know them.
Repeat this with every member of management at every level, from executive to front-line supervisor. Keep notes if you need to. And try to meet with all of them within your first two weeks on the job.
INTRODUCE YOURSELF TO THE EMPLOYEES
This needs to happen on day one, so be prepared for it. If your new employer hasn’t already arranged for this, speak to the department managers and see if you can get their employees together for 10 minutes for a quick intro.
Over your first few days, you will want to learn as much as possible about the operations (this is one of the most important parts of safety manager training). If the employees don’t know who you are and your goals, it will make your job harder. So do this introduction meeting as soon as possible.
The introduction can be in a group setting, and you want to have an elevator speech prepared; a short paragraph of what you will talk about.
The things you should cover in this introduction are:
- Your name, pronunciation, and spelling if it is tricky (like Brye)
- Your role at the company
- A little bit about yourself, but don’t indulge; 3 quick facts are plenty. You will be tempted to give your resume – DON’T, you will lose them.
- What your vision is for the safety program
- How this vision benefits the employees – remember, it’s about what you can do for them and why it is essential to them.
- Your contact information, location of your office, and the hours you will typically work (we all know safety managers don’t work typical hours, but you get it)
- Open it up for questions and also ask them what their pressing safety issues are.
You want this to be a positive introduction and not a complaint session. If it gets a bit ranty, then say, “all of this is good to know, and I am glad to be here and that the company cares about your safety. You know where and how to get a hold of me.”
I find that employees love to bombard the new safety manager. And there will be plenty of time to do that, but you don’t want to do it at an impromptu introduction meeting. This shows the management team that you respect their operations, building that compromise and cooperation with operations from day one.
CONDUCT A HAZARD ASSESSMENT
In your first few weeks, when you’re not doing introduction meetings, you need to focus on conducting a thorough hazard assessment of the entire organization. This will also allow you to learn about the business and its operations.
Conduct an inspection of every department, every area, the inside, the outside, upstairs, downstairs, the basement, and the roof. No stone should be left unturned.
When you’re first starting, most people will leave you alone to do your thing. This gives you ample time to be thorough. It also sets a good impression that you will be out and about while working and not stuck behind your desk.
While doing your assessment, take the opportunity to speak to some employees one-on-one. Find out what they do, why they do it that way, and their thoughts on how people can get hurt at work.
Be sure to examine all the safety documentation, programs, policies, procedures, files, recordkeeping, SOPs, etc.
Everything you find, hazards or poor business practices, should be organized into one document to manage and share with the management team.
ANALYZE AND PRIORITIZE THE RESULTS OF THE HAZARD ASSESSMENT
Before you can share what you’ve learned throughout your safety manager training process, you need to prioritize it. Put everything in order based on the risk frequency and severity. I have a simple method for doing this recordkeeping, and I wrote a whole blog post about it. Check it out here: How to Prioritize the Most Important When Everything is Important.
COMMUNICATE YOUR FINDINGS TO THE MANAGEMENT TEAM
Next, give feedback to the management team on what you found and how you want to proceed.
The best way to do this is to set up a meeting where you can present and share your findings. Invite all members of management.
You have to be cautious and respectful in your presentation. Remember, you’re the newbie here; many of these managers have been there for
Explain how your fresh eyes found things they may not have seen and that although the list may be extensive, that’s ok; it doesn’t all need to be done overnight. This is a baseline hazard assessment that you can use as a comparison as improvements are made.
Review your methodology for ranking and prioritizing. Ask their opinion on what you came up with, offering to make adjustments if they see a need.
Lastly, discuss your vision for the management of the safety program. What you, as the safety manager, want to be involved in and why (such as decisions, purchasing, meetings), what regular meetings you would like to set up, and the schedule you envision for training. This is time to get their approval to move forward on your vision.
Without their approval for your safety management methods, you will be having meetings that no one shows up for, you will be implementing programs that no enforces.
Yes, you could just get support from just your boss, but doing it in this initial review meeting sets the tone for the culture you’re creating, where everyone is involved in safety, and you’re not a stand-alone department.
This is, by no means, a complete list of what to do when you first start out. But it is a good start.
You may also want to consider job shadowing as part of your safety manager training and review of the previous claims.
As a new safety manager, it is easy to get overwhelmed and overlook essential steps to get acclimated to the new company. Having a plan to on-board yourself shows your new employer your self-motivation and leadership skills.
Now It’s Your Turn
Tell me about your safety management training experience with a new company. Leave a comment below. I would love to hear the good, the bad, and the amazing.
My strangest experience was with a company that never had a safety manager. They had two separate businesses. They were trying to on-board me and get me to understand their processes, so they had me job shadow every day for 10 weeks! I was hired as a safety manager but didn’t work as one for months – hahaha
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.