One Monday, I walked into work and did my normal morning stroll through the facility. When I entered the production room, I was shocked! The entire room was rearranged. Being the Safety Manager, I should have been involved in the process all along, not just to make the safety decisions for the project, but as a team member.
Has this ever happened to you?
Unfortunately, I have seen this more times than I can count. New equipment is purchased without safety knowing. New construction decided on without their involvement. Or in my case, a process reconfigured with no regard to the impact on employee safety.
FYI – They removed one of four exits, blocked another one, and made the walkways 20” wide – I know!! So many violations!
Why Does Safety Need to be Involved in Management Decisions?
When business decisions are made, the safety department should always be involved. This even goes for new products, large orders, or new customers.
Even small impacts can accumulate and result in injuries, changes in safe work practices, or employee morale.
The management team does not know what the Safety Manager knows; and vice versa. That is why they need to work together when business decisions are made. There are so many different regulations, policies, and best practices that could be affected by a change in process or a new large order.
The Safety Manager can not only offer ideas to stay in compliance, but they can help develop SOPs and efficient work practices. They are great devil’s advocates; considering what could go wrong and plan for it ahead of time.
What It Means When Management Goes Behind Safety’s Back
So why would management choose to leave safety out? Other than a big flashing sign that they don’t support safety, let’s go deeper and look at what is going on.
- It can signify a poor relationship issue. Safety and Management are not getting along well. We can’t control the other person; we can only control ourselves. So focus on building up those relationships. Listen to my podcast on talking to management.
- The Safety Manager has not been a team player in the past. If your answer to everything the management team wants to do is “No” or “It Can’t Be Done”, of course, they will leave you out of their decisions, even safety decisions. Your best approach is to ask “how can we do this safely?” and compromise between your best practice and what they are willing to do while still keeping employees safe.
- Management doesn’t see the value of Safety’s Input. They may think they already know the answer to the safety decisions that need to be made or in the past, the Safety Manager hasn’t really added anything to the process. To work on this, try thinking beyond safety and adding value to the company; listen to my podcast How to Increase the Value You Provide to Your Company
- Management didn’t even think about consulting safety. They didn’t see any safety issues. It wasn’t that they didn’t want to include safety, they didn’t know safety should be made aware. This is where you need to educate them on how everything is connected and impacts employee safety.
One time, my sales department took on a contract to make a product for 3 months. I was never told about the new product, and the production looked similar to what they were already doing, so I didn’t see the difference right away. Two weeks and 2 “almost” amputations later and I found out right away about the change. From that day forward, sales considered the safety impact of their decisions. I would like to think it was a moral decision, but honestly, the injuries spent all the profit from the orders.
Why Management Ignores Safety Decisions
The biggest problem is when the management team knows they are going against a safety recommendation and they hide what they are doing from safety.
You know that saying “Easier to ask forgiveness than permission.” That’s what is going on.
Unfortunately, this is management destroying their relationship with safety and the employees. Safety will never trust the management team. And employees will find out they disregarded their safety for increased production or profits.
It is very tempting to report your own employer to regulators when this happens, but that doesn’t help the relationship either.
It is best to confront the management team with curiosity and the belief that they had positive intent. This means that you believe that they think they’re doing the right thing and they aren’t trying to hurt anyone.
The conversation that results can help them see your side, which is why hiding what they are doing from safety is detrimental to their overall goals. Express that you want to work with them for the best results.
Getting Mad Doesn’t Help Anything
It is very easy to blow up at your boss or the department manager when they don’t include you. You could be passive-aggressive about the whole thing.
But, when you play that out, does it ever get you to the result you want?
Not really. Your anger leads to resentment, pulling back from your co-workers, ignoring them, or not including them in your projects.
That will push them away from you further and make them not want to include you in the future.
When you see yourself getting angry, go for a walk and keep it out of the workplace. Ask yourself “What can I do to turn this around so next time they include me?”
That’s much more productive than blowing your top at them.
Safety Decisions Made Without the Safety Manager
Although we’re striving for a culture where safety decisions are made without the safety manager, we do not want one where safety is not informed or involved at all. That is the fine line you need to get across to your team.
So even when your management team makes good safety decisions, if you were not included, speak up and ask them to consult you next time. Even if it is just to keep you in the loop.
What Happened in My Story?
If you haven’t guessed it, I am still sore about this situation.
They refused every fix I offered and didn’t care that they were violating exit routes. Every year the fire department did an inspection and never said anything – so they thought I was wrong and they were fine.
But all it would take is a random OSHA inspection… so tempting to call them myself – lol
NOW IT’S YOUR TURN
I told you my story, I’m sure you have one too. What is the worst thing that your management team hid from you? Drop a comment below and let’s gossip!
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.