Safety is one of the most important departments in an operation. Of course, if there weren’t sales or operations, there would be nothing to keep safe, but stick with me for a minute. The value of safety management to an organization is at least equal.
Safety is equal to operations, it’s equal to sales, it’s equal to quality.
A safety department is not something that you could just throw away or put to the side. Especially once you understand the value it adds to the bottom line of the company. Unfortunately, during this recession we’re seeing that many companies are letting their safety people go.
This will turn out to be a huge mistake. because safety has an effect on every part of the operations. Meaning in the long run, it will have a negative impact on every part of the company.
TO MAINTAIN THE VALUE OF SAFETY MANAGEMENT, IT HAS TO REPORT TO THE TOP
Safety must report to the highest level of that organization because their work impacts everybody else. Otherwise, there is an accountability issue. Without the proper reporting structure, you don’t fully see the value of safety management.
It is the Safety Manager’s responsibility to audit the policies, procedures, and behaviors of all the other departments and to implement improvements. There becomes a conflict of interest when, let’s say, they report to operations, accounting, or maintenance.
The goals of the safety department can conflict with the goals of operations. When the reporting structure is muddled, the message and results are too.
Operations, or other areas, may oppose the safety suggestions. When the safety department reports to the top level of the organization, it allows for a neutral party referee, so to say. Even though there may still be a conflict (CEO’s goals are sales related), there is less likely to be conflict because you’re already taking it to the top and the person with the final word.
This puts safety responsibility into the top management’s hands.
Safety Reporting to HR
Reporting to HR is a bit tricky as well. Even if your human resources department fully supports safety and understands all the aspects of it, they can be a roadblock.
In most cases, HR’s current responsibilities don’t allow them to fully understand the magnitude of workplace safety as well. Many HR departments manage safety reactively, handling claims and dealing with problems as they come up.
HR Manager’s are not focused on improving safe work habits or changing behaviors. So they end up focusing on regulations and just maintaining the status quo.
This becomes a problem for Safety Managers reporting to HR because their improvement initiatives don’t get the full support of their boss. Or they are put in a position to “sell” it to their boss who in turn has to “sell” it to the head of the company.
This creates a middle man where the key nuances of why the improvement is needed can get lost.
What to Do If You Don’t Report to the Top
If you are currently in the position where your reporting structure is muddled, then it is time to speak up. There needs to be a clear uninterrupted line between the safety manager and the top person at the company.
Your first step would be to ask why it isn’t like that currently. Many times it is due to time constraints and a lack of understanding of the value of safety management.
Discuss all this to your management team and ask for the change to be made.
If you are stuck in the wrong structure or are getting hired into the wrong structure, then you have clear signs that the company does not value safety. Which means you have a really big culture issue; but you can change that.
Safety managers can have a positive impact on a company’s culture.
WHERE DOES THE VALUE OF SAFETY MANAGEMENT COME FROM?
As a safety manager you have more positive impact on the company other than just reducing injuries.
In safety management, the work tasks are broken down into steps, hazards are identified, and the best way to do that job efficiently, safely, and with good quality, is determined. This means that the value of safety management includes cutting costs to operations, expenses, and labor, as well as improving sales through higher quality and less returns.
Safety managers are also the liaison between employees and management because they’re interacting with the workers so often and at every level. They’re more likely to know the current gossip and know what’s going on within the organization.
We hear all the rumors, we see everything going on.
The work practices that we create are created with operations, quality, HR, all of them. We’re the ones making sure that they’re actually following those rules.
When you have a safe work environment, employees are happier. They feel secure in their job and with that security come lower turnover, higher retention, and increased productivity.
Another value of safety management is the skill in purchasing and negotiations. Safety managers have to purchase PPE, choose the best product, work with suppliers and get the best price. By doing this we’re saving the company money.
We save expenses through our inspections and audits to make sure that everything is in fine, working order. We also do preventative maintenance.
As you can see, the value of safety management is way more than just the money saved from reducing injuries and accidents. Safety is actually a profit center. If you quantify everything that safety saves in all of these areas, you can prove that safety is a profit center.
When Safety Departments are seen as profit centers, they are valued by the company leaders.
SAFETY AFFECTS EVERY DEPARTMENT
Let’s break it down by department and see what safety actually brings to those departments, why it’s so important, and why these departments should be embracing safety as a core value.
What safety does for operations is create JHA’s and SOP’s on how to do the job efficiently.
We’re coaching, which increases communication not just with their management team, but also with their employees. And, we’re teaching their supervisors how to be better leaders. When their supervisors are better leaders, they’re going to be able to have higher productivity.
Safety increases the morale for their department by making sure they’re working safely, remember, happy employees will make more product. By focusing on safety in the operations department, they’re actually going to be able to make more widgets than they had planned.
When there is a higher morale within your employees, you’re going to have less turnover, which means your HR department’s not going to have to deal with having to find new employees.
Safety managers are the heart of the company and all the employees are like the blood running through it. We can feel that heartbeat and we can feel what’s going on there. We’re the ones that are gathering all of that little gossip that we can share with HR and say “Hey, you have a problem brewing over here” and that way HR can get on it right away, before it becomes big.
All of this is done while we are inspecting, coaching, and observing.
Because we’re creating JHA’s and SOP’s, we do those with quality in mind. As we’re walking and observing, we can see whether or not employees are following the quality rules, as well as the safety rules.
Safety Managers need to learn the basics of what quality was looking for. If you have their back while you are doing your job, they will reciprocate and help you out as well.
Without safety, quality’s job is harder. When you take safety away, people will not follow the SOPs as closely, which means you might have more damaged products or you might have a lower quality product. That’s why you want to work together with the quality department.
You might be thinking that safety doesn’t impact sales, that it’s the other way around. That’s true, sales has a huge impact on safety. If they’re selling something that operations has to create, Safety Managers must make sure that the employees can make that product safely.
However, safety has an impact on sales because if you don’t have a safe workforce, you’re going to have more employees out of work; due to injuries or morale. It’s going to be harder to meet the orders if that happens. Quality is going to go down, which is then going to fall back onto sales.
This is usually never seen as a safety issue, more of a quality issue. But, remember, safety can improve that quality.
This is more of a budget line than a department. Even though management teams focus expenses within the departments as a whole, safety saves expenses big time. We’re not just talking expenses from workers’ comp injuries and accidents that we have to pay for. Those are obvious expenses. Beyond the obvious expenses through purchasing, inspections, and preventative maintenance.
THE SAFETY DEPARTMENT SHOULD BE EQUAL TO OTHER DEPARTMENTS
The value of safety management should be equal to the value of other departments and safety should be involved in every department’s decision because what those departments do affect safety.
If you’re selling more products, it’s going to affect safety. If you’re changing the specs on a product to make the quality higher, it’s going to affect safety. Every part of your operation will affect safety in some way.
Too many times safety departments are being left out of the decision process and aren’t being included because they don’t see the value. They don’t see what safety is bringing to the company.
Safety is a profit center.
As the Safety Manager you have to show management how safety is making them money. Of course it’s in the way of savings or morale, etc… quantify each area where you save them money so that way you can say “Hey, this is the value I bring to the table” and, if they understood that value, we would not see the safety managers getting laid off during this recession.
Managers aren’t seeing that value. They’re seeing it as an expense and seeing it as anybody can do safety. That’s not true because safety is a profession, it’s not just a promotion.
I want you to start thinking about what you bring to the table and how you’re going to express that value in a dollar figure to management so that they see your value.
NOW IT’S YOUR TURN
I would love to hear from you, about how your safety department affects other departments. Leave a comment below or hop on over to the safety geek.com to the show notes and leave a comment over there.
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.