You Can Have a Successful Career in Safety, Definitely
If you’ve just started your career in safety, I’m sure that you’re wondering if, someday, you’ll become successful. Yes, you can. I fully believe that you can because others have done it. I have done it. Regardless if you’ve studied in college or not.
To inspire you, I’m here to tell a story about Marty and Sam, not their real names but they’re both my previous students.
The Tale of Two Safety Specialists Turned Directors
Let’s start off by introducing Marty. Like most of us, Marty wasn’t really hired before for safety, in fact, he was a supervisor that was just given safety responsibilities. So, Marty doesn’t really know much about safety which is why he needed time to self-study, learn about the regulations, and experiment with creating safety programs.
Eventually, as he continuously did his side duties in safety, he slowly loved it and saw that it was a possible career opportunity. So, Marty left his previous company and became a full-time safety manager in the production company where Sam was.
Marty, excited and passionate about his job, immediately started to build his Safety Programs and earned many early wins. However, as time went on, he became overburdened by the heavy workload because of the continuous addition of new safety policies and he did everything by himself.
Due to this heavy workload, Marty realized that he needed help. So, he convinced the management team that he needed an assistant, a Safety Specialist, to help him. Management agreed, and that’s where Sam came into the story.
Sam was a line worker in the production company that Marty transferred in. Although Sam wasn’t a college graduate, he is smart. But due to the lack of opportunities in the company, he became stuck as a line worker.
Marty noticed that Sam was capable. So, when he needed an assistant, he immediately offered Sam the job. Sam accepted and was given administrative tasks such as handling reports, doing follow-ups, and checking with the management team.
Having a safety specialist freed up a lot of Marty’s workload and thus enabled him to do more. Marty wanted a promotion, he wanted to handle a higher position. But he couldn’t do it, because he felt loyalty to the company.
So, what Marty did was he convinced the management team to invest in Sam and take over his role in the company. The management team agreed and supported Sam. Sam, eventually took on the role and Marty left for another company.
However, just after a few months, he also wants to move forward in his career. So like Marty, Sam trained his assistant to take over his job. Now, both Marty and Sam are safety directors of multiple locations and earn a six-digit salary annually.
So what’s the takeaway? Like Marty and Sam, you can be successful too. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a college degree or you do have a degree but is irrelevant to safety. You can become a successful safety professional.
Like Marty, it’s possible to reach a high salary and position through self-study means. However, that will take time. So like Sam, if you want to become successful faster, gaining professional training and having someone to mentor you is a big help.
The Tale Of Two Safety Specialists Turned Directors
Safety Brye: [00:00:00] Today I wanna share a story with you in hopes that you can see what is possible for you. I'm not exactly sure where you are in your journey as you are listening to me today. I don't know exactly where you wanna go. That choice is 100% yours. But I hope what I share with you today in this podcast helps you make the right choice for you,
your family and your happiness. I love this story. Let's get to it.
Hey there, safety friends. Welcome to the Safety Geek Podcast. I'm Brye Sargent CSP and 20 year safety professional. After spending years training safety leaders across the globe for a large corporation and creating safety programs from the ground up over and over again, I am now sharing my processes and
[00:01:00] 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.
Well, hey there, safety friend. How are you doing today? Do I have a story for you that I love sharing? So time and time again, I have shared my journey into safety, but today I want to share one from one of my students. And I am particularly fond of this case because it mimics how so many of us get into the field.
But how knowing how to build a safety culture can actually skyrocket your success.
[00:02:00] Success being whatever that may be for you. And as I tell this story, I want you to know that I support you wherever you are in your career journey. Although most of my clients have goals to reach the highest levels and salaries that they can.
I have also had clients who are very happy where they are. They had no aspirations to change jobs or get promoted. They just wanted to be more effective in their current role. So wherever you are, I just want you to know that I support you. So as I share this story, don't think that you have to take this same path or that this is the right path for you.
I just want you to hear what is possible. All right, let me set the stage for you. So this is actually the story that includes two safety leaders, maybe a third one in there.
[00:03:00] And as we start this journey, I want you to understand where they're coming from. Now, one of them is actually a production worker. We will call him Sam, and he was a line worker making slightly more than minimum wage, and he had been with the company by the time he got into a safety role for a few months and he was pretty good at his job.
The other was a first time safety manager. We will call him Marty. And he was brand new to the organization. So, and the company that we're talking about is a general industry manufacturing company, and they're, they have about, I don't know, maybe 75 or 80 employees and they have production, warehousing, distribution, sales, customer service.
Typical management team. Okay. It's typically what you would see in any type of general industry manufacturing company, but this could apply anywhere. I know that I have a lot of people
[00:04:00] listen to me in the construction industry, oil and gas, whatever. Okay, So Marty, he came into his role from another company where he was actually a supervisor over a department, like a manufacturing department.
But he had some safety responsibilities. So technically, if you think about it, Marty was like a safety specialist. You know, he did training, he did inspections, he did record keeping. He understood the basics. But what Marty found out was that of the two roles of being a supervisor and being in charge of safety, he preferred safety just because he liked the work, just like many of us do.
Like I'm super passionate about what we do. He liked the work and he saw the potential for the job, and he just wanted to pursue a full-time safety career. So he left that company where they didn't have a full-time safety person, and he started at this new company as their first dedicated safety manager. They had never
[00:05:00] had a dedicated safety manager before, so he was walking in fresh and in the past, they had been getting by with just HR doing double duty with HR and safety, which we see that a lot. A lot of times what I see, not in this case it was hr, but I'll see HR doing safety. I'll see maintenance doing safety.
I see that a lot. And then sometimes I'll, I'll see like the operations manager have like a safety specialist under them. So, but many, many times I see HR doing safety. And Marty didn't walk in having to start from scratch because HR did do some of it, but it was pretty close starting from scratch. There wasn't a lot in place and there was still like a lot that needed to be done.
But in the beginning he had a lot of easy wins. It was really easy for him to like show off, I guess, to the management team, like, Hey, you hired me. Look at all this. We got our numbers down, right? We've all been there. So Marty was a self-taught safety manager.
[00:06:00] And previously at his previous boss, they would approve like a small training once a year.
You know, like maybe something like a small OTI course or something like that once a year. But most of what he knew, he learned through trial and error, reading the regulations, doing internet research. Basically a self-taught safety manager. Now in his new role, he did have a bigger budget. It increased slightly, but it wasn't a huge increase because this was their first dedicated safety manager.
And when people hire up like this and they're hiring somebody with very little experience. They're not understanding how complicated our role is so I can get the fact that Marty just didn't have that much of a budget. So yeah, he did get to go to some more training, but he pretty much had to learn on his own.
So he muddled through just as many of us do, working one program at a time. You know, he added in safety policies and training and
[00:07:00] inspections and investigations and claims management added in JHAs and SOPs. And every time he learned something new along the way, it was added into his program. And Marty felt like he was getting really, really good at his job.
And he was right. He had been like four or five years in, He had been making really good progress and the numbers were showing it and he loved his work. Right? But here's the thing that happens every time you add in a new policy, a new training, a new inspection, as you are working your continuous improvement program.
There is the risk that your to-do list grows, and that's what Marty was seeing. Marty was doing everything in safety. He was the safety manager, so all safety responsibilities started and stopped with him. He was in control. Now, if you've been listening to my podcast, especially over the last several weeks, you will understand that this is one of the huge mistakes that Marty made. When you start doing everything in
[00:08:00] safety yourself, you're not necessarily building that safety culture. And it ends up being that there are not enough hours in the day for you to do everything yourself, and then you become the glue that is holding everything together. So the moment you walk away, it all just falls apart.
So it becomes that you're doing it for not right. And this is where the burnout started. And Marty actually found himself working, you know, sometimes seven days a week in some way, shape or form. He was basically living and breathing his work and not getting that work life balance. And I hear this a lot, not just in Marty's case, but I hear this from so many people where they're like, Yeah, I work 80 hours a week, and if you're working 60 hours a week or more, even a 50 hours a week, or more. You're not really creating an efficient safety
[00:09:00] program. You're creating something where you're the one holding it all together and that doesn't do the company any good, right? Like in Marty's case, he was even on vacation, checking emails and answering questions. He never had any downtime. He felt like he was always on call and always at work.
And you know, at this point in your career, You know, in Marty's case, he had worked for another company, got to that supervisor position, love safety, got into this dedicated safety role, loves it. But now we're five years in and he still feels like he's on a hamster wheel. Like you understand when you walk into a company and you're like, Hey, think I gotta build things from scratch.
The first six months or so are gonna be hectic. . But when you're five years in and your to-do list is 18 hours long and you only have eight hours in a day, what are you gonna do? Right? So this is when Marty finally
[00:10:00] decided that he needed help, that he was like, I've built this program, and yeah, it's great, but if we wanna maintain it, I can't continue to do this because it's just physically not possible.
And this is where Sam came into the picture because at this point Sam had been working for the company for a few months. He was smart, but his current circumstances just always kept him on that floor role. But Marty, Marty had been on the floor coaching employees. He had built a positive relationship with Sam.
He kind of saw like, you know, Sam's pretty good and you know, Sam did manage to work his way up to a team leader position. But when you started a company from the bottom and you're trying to work your way up, it really depends upon people leaving their roles for you to actually move into a higher position, or the company growing and creating new management roles.
So for Sam here, he was recently married, he had his first child. And he understood like, I'm
[00:11:00] smart, I should be making more money. I should be, have more responsibility. But he wasn't really given the opportunity. So Sam was at this crossroads as well, is where he is like, You know, I'm making just above minimum wage, but I have to support my family.
I don't have an education, but you know, I'm smart enough to do other things. Then Marty was needing help. And he convinced Sam to take on a safety specialist role, got approval from his company, got himself basically like a safety clerk even. But the moment Sam started working for Marty, this is what was so interesting to me in this story, is that Marty took Sam under his wing and he started giving him tasks that Marty was taking on, like following up on inspections, even just collecting paperwork here and there.
Checking in with the management teams, right? Things like that. Marty's workload started to decrease, and as Marty's workload decreased, Marty's effectiveness increased.
[00:12:00] Now, why was that? Well, he had more time to do what he did best. The administrative tasks were taken off of him and put onto Sam so that Marty could focus on really making his program more effective.
And then the better Marty did at his job, it actually opened up more ideas on what he could do in his future. You know, instead of feeling that burnout, he started to feel hope. And that's where Marty started to get his eyes on a promotion and maybe going to a corporate job or a regional job, right? But at the same time, he had built this safety program from the ground up.
He kind of felt some loyalty to the company and he didn't want to move on to another job and leave them with nothing. Now, granted they had Sam, but Marty was looking at it like it took five years to get to this point. I can't let the company
[00:13:00] wait another five years for Sam to get up to speed because like I've said before, if you are trying to do this on your own, yes, it can be done.
I did it myself. But it can take anywhere from five to 10 years to be an effective safety manager without proper training. So what Marty did is that he convinced his company to invest in Sam's education. He also mentored Sam about what this position could mean for him and got Sam to invest in his education.
And Sam actually ended up being one of my first students. So this is why it's so close to me, right? Wait till you hear the end because it's freaking amazing. So anyway, when I started coaching Sam, I do not focus on the regulations. You guys know this. Like when you come to me to learn how to manage safety, I am not going to be your regulation
encyclopedia. Because to me that is the bare minimum. I'm
[00:14:00] gonna teach you how to create a world class safety program from the start. So if you are a safety clerk and you wanna make a career out of this, I'm gonna teach you behavior change and building culture and how to build collaboration with the management team.
How to get support for your programs, how to become that safety influencer, right? So that was what I started to teach Marty and Sam. And shortly after, you know, at this point, Marty knew a lot of this anyway, cause he'd been around for a while. But shortly after this, Marty actually took on a position of a regional safety manager over several locations with another company.
So Marty got his dream, he got to move on, which I loved watching him do that stuff. And then Sam was promoted into Marty's position as the safety manager for the company and he continued the work that Marty had started and even made more progress. And he actually got to hire his own safety specialist because Marty had put that in place.
[00:15:00] Like so many of us are teams of one. So Marty had actually gotten it to where this company saw the need for a team of two. So when Sam got promoted into it, he was able to hire his own safety specialist as well. But 18 months later, Sam moved on to another company for more money and a higher position.
And I ran into him and we were chatting and he told me he was bragging that he was making as much money as Marty, but he did it even faster. Cuz here it took Marty like over five years and it only took Sam 18 months. And it always makes me laugh. Right. And it's the difference between, you know, trying to figure it out yourself.
Right. Cause you look like, what's the difference between Marty and Sam? Marty tried to figure it out on his own. That was his mentality. I'll figure this out on his own, which he started at his first company several years as a safety part-time at his first company, and then he moves to this dedicated
[00:16:00] role at five years, you know, in this dedicated role, and he finally figured it out for himself, right?
But where Sam, he was mentored to get, you know, proper training in the beginning. And it actually, and here's the kicker, is that Sam did not start working towards his safety degree and his certification until he got into his new position. Once he got in the new position, he was making more money and everything like that, he was like, Okay, I think I'm gonna go for my safety degree, which is what I generally recommend people is like, you can get to the higher level before you even start thinking that way.
But the reason why this story came to mind and why I'm sharing it with you this week is that I recently received a LinkedIn request, I think it was like two months ago from the safety specialist that Sam had hired. And guess what? He's now the safety manager over two locations. And I love the saying that you're not a leader until you create a leader. But in this case, Marty created a leader
[00:17:00] who created a leader. So does that make Marty right? So it just kind of gives me chills even sharing this story with you because I hope that it inspires you, because if you're listening to this and you're a line worker just making over minimum, and you're dreaming of making more than an HR manager or even more than a CPA. And maybe one day sitting in that C-suite with the executive management team, a career in safety can be the answer.
I've seen so many people go from minimum wage to six figures without a college education in this field. And it is possible if you try to do it on your own, you will get there. I don't wanna discourage you on that. You will definitely get. But having the education and the training behind you really, really helps. And recently the National Safety Council did a survey and it says
[00:18:00] that 70% of future safety leaders will come into the progression just like Sam and Marty did. And currently, over 45% of safety leaders make over a hundred thousand dollars a year, and you don't need a degree to get to that level. I work with so many safety leaders who are at a hundred thousand, 120,000 who don't have a degree in safety.
I do not have a degree in safety. So you don't necessarily need the degree to get to that level. I'm not gonna deny that you will eventually hit a wall. Most definitely. But what other profession out there can say that. What other profession can you get into and work your way up and within 18 months, be it a higher salary than a department manager right. Now, you do need skills to do that, and I would love to help you with that.
[00:19:00] And one day maybe I will be sitting here on this podcast, which chills on and goosebumps on my arm as I share your story. So if that's something that interests you, make sure that you get on the wait list for Safety Management Academy. That is the same class that I taught Sam all those years ago, but perfected even more as we are constantly improving it.
But I would love to see you in Safety Management Academy. I hope you enjoyed this story. Obviously, Sam and Marty are made up names. I'm not gonna give you their real names, but I hope that you enjoyed this story. And I will see you next week. Bye for now.
Hey, if you're just getting started in safety or you've been at this for a while and are hitting a roadblock. Then, I wanna invite you to check out Safety Management Academy. This is my in depth online course that not only teaches you
[00:20:00] the processes and strategies of an effective safety management program, but how to entwine management support, and employee participation throughout your processes.
Are you ready to finally understand exactly what you should be doing and ditch that safety police hat forever? Then you have got to join me and your fellow safety scholars over at Safety Management Academy, just go to thesafetygeek.com/sma to learn more and to get started. That's thesafetygeek.com/sma
and I will see you in our next students only live session. Bye for now.
Sign up to receive email updates
Enter your name and email address below and I'll send you periodic updates about the podcast.
Highlights From This Episode:
- The Success Stories of Two Safety Leaders
- How to Successfully Achieve Your Safety Goals
- Why Doing Everything Yourself Can Slow Down Your Career Growth
- Know How to be a Leader Who Creates a Leader
- Having the Education and the Training helps Your Safety Career
NOW IT’S YOUR TURN
I hope this story inspires you. If you’re a line worker making just over minimum, and you are dreaming of making more than HR, more than a CPA, or one day sitting in that C-Suite, a career in safety management may be the answer.
70% of future safety leaders will come into the profession just like Sam and Marty. And currently, 45% make over $100k a year. And you don’t need a degree to get to that level. What other profession can say that?
What you do need is skills. And I would love to help you with that and one day share your story.
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.