A new safety manager sees their place as the person responsible not only for creating safety policies but for being the enforcer of safety. This combination of roles does not work. A safety manager cannot be the safety police.
The safety manager is the subject matter expert. They are the coach of the coaches.
For the safety department to be a partner in the business, then they must be seen as helpful and as subject matter experts.
In this week’s episode, we discuss the difference between the two, why they must be separate, and how to bridge the gap when you are stuck doing both.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE PERFECT TO BE AN EXPERT
Don’t ever think you have to know all the answers off the top of your head to be a safety subject matter expert.
You must understand the safety management system, the gist of the rules that apply, and how to research and find the answer.
THE SUPERVISOR IS THE SAFETY POLICE
Employees will always listen to their immediate boss more than any other leader at the company. This is the person that has the most significant influence on their daily work activities. They also have the authority to fire them.
A safety manager without authority over the employee cannot be the only enforcing safety.
The safety department cannot be feared. They need to be seen as helpful. Management through fear will ruin all safety culture efforts.
HOW TO BRIDGE THE GAP
Many safety managers are hired and expected to be the safety police. You have to get the management team to understand why this doesn’t work.
Safety can’t be feared, so they shouldn’t be writing employees up.
Safety needs to be a safe place for this to be reported so improvements can be made.
The incident numbers are just plain better when supervisors step up their safety enforcement role.
You may agree with all of this, but you may also be stuck. I’ve been there where if I didn’t write employees up, no one would. But there are steps you can take to change the culture slowly.
Highlights From This Episode:
- What is a Subject Matter Expert
- What does “Safety Police” mean
- Why the Safety Manager cannot be the Safety Police
- The problem with managing through fear
- Supervisors must enforce safety
NOW IT’S YOUR TURN
Let’s take a poll – how much of your job are you the safety police and how much are you the SME? Leave a comment below.
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.