The 5 Worst Things About Safety Management
I love my job as a Safety Manager. But some aspects of this awesome job make it very difficult. It becomes complicated in a sense that has even caused many professionals to quit being safety professionals.
Let’s discuss what I think are the five worst things about safety management.
Handling Horrific Injuries
The first is the horrific injuries we deal with as safety professionals. I’ve dealt with mutilated fingers, arms, and legs as a safety manager.
And one of the worst ones I’ve dealt with was an employee that has become a quadriplegic-meaning he lost use and feeling of everything below his shoulders.
Imagine dealing with these injuries frequently for many years. So in my case, was about around 25 years. And aside from that, imagine the emotional stress of talking to the family members of the injured or deceased employee.
Very Low Risk Tolerance
Because we’ve seen a lot of injuries over the years, being a safety manager significantly lowers our risk tolerance. It means that we could vividly imagine the worse thing that could happen when safe work practices aren’t followed.
Due to this, we tend to point these hazards out and share them with the management team. Because we want them to see things the way we see things. And this can be a struggle because everyone has a different risk tolerance.
You’ve done your job as a safety manager-conducting inspections, assessing hazards, and creating safety policies. So, imagine the stress of getting an injury report from a hazard missed in your safety program. And imagine the guilt of knowing that someone was injured because you’ve missed something.
Sometimes, unrecognized hazards can also be due to changes done to the facilities or equipment. That is why it has become my policy to conduct a periodic review of safety policies to ensure that there aren’t any hazards left unchecked.
Not Being Listened To
The company hired you as a safety expert. But what often happens is that they don’t listen to your hazard assessment and recommended safety policies. Not being listened to is very frustrating and has caused many safety professionals to change companies or careers.
This safety culture can be found in many companies. That’s why, even if moving to a different company is a valid option, you might also land in a company that doesn’t listen. So my advice is, don’t take it personally. Because if you do, it will just wear you out. Just do your job and let them know your suggestions.
Prioritizing Company’s Liability Over Employee Care
This aspect is what I hate most about being a safety manager. Since it is my job to look out for company liability, this means that I have the means to deny or reduce medical treatment to injured employees. And this aspect of the job can heavily cause guilt, especially if you’re getting rewarded for prioritizing the company’s liability over the employees’ welfare, even if it’s the company’s fault.
Honestly, I’ve struggled with the fifth reason I’ve mentioned. And because of that, I’ve worked hard to develop accident procedures that will look out for the company’s liability while still providing care for employees.
I share this process with students of Safety Management Academy. It is an available add on to students only. However, I share another way you can get your hands on this special guide during my masterclass. You can visit thesafetygeek.com/howto to know more.
The 5 Worst Things About Safety Management No One Tells You About
Safety Brye: [00:00:00] Now, you know that I absolutely love what we do, but there are some parts of the job that make it hard. And I do not mean long to do lists everybody dumping work on your desk or the endless documentation. I mean really hard gut wrenching, soul sucking hard. Let's talk about the worst parts of safety management.
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 strategies with you at the safety geek.
You will learn how to manage an effective safety program that increases your management support
[00:01:00] 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.
Hello. Hello. Hello and welcome to the safety geek podcast. Now I have been at this game for a really long time. And I honestly believe that it is one of the best professions out there, especially since most of us come to it through a back door, you know what I mean? Or you got promoted from within and you just kind of landed in the job.
In fact, the recent national safety council in one of their, in their health and safety magazine, they had a survey that said that 70% of safety managers will be promoted from within the company that they will not go outside the company to find one they will promote from within, but
[00:02:00] there are many aspects of this job that nobody warned you about.
And I've had a lot of people ask me, what do you hate most about your job? Have you ever had anybody ask you that? I don't know. I don't know why I've had people ask me that. And my answer is on this list. It's number five, by the way. But today, instead of just giving you one answer, I thought that I would talk about the things that nobody ever warns you about.
So are you ready, my friends? I have five things that are pretty bad about safety management and topping that list or coming in at number one, or I guess maybe that would be the bottom of the list because number five is really, my answer is my go-to answer. But number one, Is handling injuries. And I am not talking about handling the cuts, the bruises, the back strains.
I'm talking about holding somebody's fingers in your hand to make sure that, you know, you take care of them correctly and
[00:03:00] pass them on to the paramedics or having to talk to family members after an employee has died. I am talking about the horrific. Injuries, because the injuries that we have to handle in the workplace are way different than what most people handle in their personal life.
You know, I have kids, kids get injured, we see it all the time. Right. But the injuries that we handle at work sometimes can be horrific. And I'll never forget. I had an employee get into an accident one time and he ended up a quadriplegic. He was delivering milk. He was driving a milk tanker at the time.
So when it rolled over into the ditch and it filled the ditch with milk, the person that actually responded to the scene said to me, I had to hold his head. Above the milk to make sure he didn't drown. I mean like things like that. Right. And then the thing is, is that because we are in safety,
[00:04:00] we end up dealing with injuries like that.
over and over again, a lot more frequently, especially if you're working for a company that doesn't have a very robust safety culture. Maybe you're not there yet. And if you are sitting in a company where like, oh, my company supports safety and we're amazing, and we have a 0.5 injury rate. It doesn't mean that the horrific accident will not happen to you.
they happen and they may not even be your company's fault. My very first vitality that I had to handle was actually a salesperson. He was either a salesperson or a supervisor. I cannot remember. It was a very long time ago who was hit by a drunk driver, but because he was on duty at the time, it became a worker's comp.
So I had to help the family through the worker's comp claim and other things as well. And another thing that they don't tell you about, about this frequency, especially if you deal with CDL drivers, and if you have
[00:05:00] cameras in your trucks, You end up like seeing a lot of accidents that, you know, can't be unseen.
I had a driver one time tell me he was rear ended at a hundred miles an hour. And the car that rear ended him ended up underneath the tractor trailer. And he got out of the truck and Pete bystanders were telling him what had happened. And he never walked to the back of the. And he said, look, you can unsee certain things.
And I am not looking at that and I was like, you're so smart. And you know, and that's the other thing. If you do have transportation at your work, you end up responding to accident scenes as well. And the carnage after an accident, whether that carnage is just the trucks or the cars that are crashed together, maybe there's people involved as well.
It's just not fun, you know, and a lot of times it becomes these horror stories that we share with each other. And that's great. But when you have 25 years of horror stories,
[00:06:00] I think that's why I get to my number two thing, which is the number two worst thing about safety is that nobody sees it the same way that you do.
You know, we all have different levels of risk tolerance. We, you know, some people speed and just think like they're not going to get pulled over by the cops. Or some people will put that ladder on a table to reach the ceiling because they think the ladder's secure on the table. Right. We've all seen those funny images on the internet.
Everybody has a different level of risk tolerance, but because we are exposed to so much of what could happen when we see things, we see what could happen. And we know, like I'd say is that safety rules are written in blood. It's happened to somebody else. It doesn't mean it can't happen to you. And I cannot stand it when somebody responds to me and says that won't happen. And I'm just like, yeah,
[00:07:00] the guy who lost his finger said the same thing, you know, it's just, nobody sees the risk the same as you. And you might see it as it's not worth it. And then your management team might see it as. The risk is so minimal, it's worth taking the chance. And that is something I've struggled with.
My entire career is just trying to get people to see it the way that I see it. And that's why I talk about sharing stories and not necessarily telling people what to do, but sharing stories of what have happened to other people. So that is number two. Now, number three, on my list is unrecognized hazards.
There is nothing worse than getting that phone call that somebody was seriously injured for something that you thought you already took care of. You did your hazard assessment, you did your inspection, you have a policy in place. You know, people are following it.
[00:08:00] How the heck did that person's finger get amputated?
Or how the heck did this happen? And you go to the scene and you find out that you missed something. It's awful. It is awful. So let me share a story with you on this one. I was working for this company that had no lockout tag out. They were literally reaching past the guards. They were putting magnets over the interlocks.
We're talking really bad, right? When they hired me in. And I spent years making sure that I changed that culture and we had SOPs in place. We had a robust lockout tagout program. I knew that during equipment changes, that machine was locked out. Everything. And this one machine had this plate over the moving part.
And then that plate had a second plate put on top of it. And they were like, I don't need to lock it out when I'm changing out the plate because you know, the plate itself is a guard and I'm like, yes, that is correct. That is very, very correct.
[00:09:00] So that was our policy. You didn't, you changed out the second plate without changing the first plate because the first plate was a guard, right?
So you didn't have to lock it out. Unbeknownst to me they changed the first plate and the first plate, the holes in the first plate now went to where it was no longer a guard. They used to be like super tiny, like quarter inch holes. And then it went up to like an inch and a half holes. So my employees following my procedure and sure enough, his finger went into one of those inch and a half inch holes and he got the tip of his finger amputated.
Now you could say, well, they didn't tell you they changed the plate, but it's my job to know what they're doing out there. I should have had a management of change in my policy. I should have had a more robust management of change policy I should have had management change training. So that way my management team understood that when you change the machinery, we then have to do a whole review of
[00:10:00] all of the safety policies and they didn't see it as that big of a change. In their eyes,
it was going from a quarter inch to an inch and a half. No big deal. Well, obviously it was, and it still kills me to this day. I think this happened. 12 years ago. and it still kills me to this day that there's a person out there with a missing tip of his finger, because I didn't recognize that there was the opportunity for them to change that very first plate.
So unrecognized hazards. This is why I'm such a fanatic about doing a comprehensive hazard assessment and doing it every couple of years and making sure that you do inspections like a lot of people like to have inspections done by employees or by facilities. And I like that too, but I always do my own inspection like every three months.
So that's why I'm a fanatic about it because there are hazards out there that could get missed. And I wanna make sure that I am catching all of them. So that's why I put processes in place to make sure that things don't fall through the cracks.
[00:11:00] And this story is one reason why that happened is why I changed my processes.
Right. All right. Number four of the worst things in safety management. It's people not listening to you. It is freaking annoying. They hire you for your expertise. They put you in the job to be the safety expert. You are the subject matter expert when it comes to safety and you find a hazard and you say, this is the hazard, and this is how we have to fix it.
And they go, nah, we're not gonna do that. You know, it's so hard. This is what wears people down. This one right here is why people end up leaving our profession, because it just beats you up and takes these tiny little microaggressions out at you and adds stress to your job is that, you know, there's a hazard and you know that if somebody gets hurt.
Because of that hazard, it's gonna make you feel like crap. And then you're telling your management team, this is what we need to do to fix
[00:12:00] it. And they are either saying no, or they're saying yes, and then not holding people accountable to follow the new procedures, or they just keep kicking the can down the road.
Right. And they're just not doing it yet, but they'll do it in the future. And this is what I have learned over the years is that you just can't take it personally. Because it will wear on you because it will beat you up. And it is one of the hardest things about the job. And this is an amazing job. And I hate to see people leave because of this.
But if they're not listening to you, you have a couple of choices. Like yes, you could change companies that is definitely available to you. And as you've heard me talk before, I think you should change companies every couple of years, regardless, but while you're in the company that you are in, just don't take it personally.
You just say, this is what I suggest, and this is what you're saying. And then you keep bringing it back up when the issue comes back up again. But it's the taking it personally, that is going to wear you down. So that's my tip on that one.
[00:13:00] And now we get to number five, which is my go-to answer for this question.
generally when people ask me this question, my typical response is what I hate about this job is that it is my job to look out for the company's liability. Sometimes that means I'm doing it over the care of an employee, meaning I've had to deny medical treatment because I had the right to do so because of certain aspects of the accident, when really it was the company's fault, I've been there.
One of the worst cases was we were hiring a temp employee. They were a temp to hire. They had literally put in all of their paperwork that day to be hired on as an employee for the company. It was all signed. And then they got into a serious accident that basically mutilated their hand and I
[00:14:00] stopped the paperwork from hiring them.
So that way the company's liability was covered. The employee's care was taken on by the temp agency. I've also been in situations where the worker's comp carrier was not responding to the employee was not treating the accident seriously, was not providing the correct care where I seriously wanted to take that employee and say, you need to hire a lawyer.
They're not treating you. Right. You know, this is an injury that happened in work. You have every right to have this covered and they're denying you and they have no right to deny you. And that's what happens when you're working with companies and insurance companies and all that stuff. And I just think it's awful.
And that is what I think is the worst thing about this job is that when I'm looking out for the company's liability, I'm making myself look great. I'm moving up in my career. I'm earning my bonuses. I'm getting my pay raises at what
[00:15:00] expense. Right. So I know it's part of the job. And honestly, it is something that I have struggled with.
So those are my five worst things. But what I wanted to share with you was because of number five, And over the past, I don't know, decade or more. I don't, I have been doing this way too long. That's all I could tell you. but I love it. I love it. Anyway, I have worked very hard to develop accident procedures that do look out for the company's liability, but at the same time, they show complete care for the employee.
And I've actually developed an entire accident procedure process that has saved the companies. I work for millions, and this is not an exaggeration, like one company. When I first started working with them, they were literally having $3 million of claims every single year. And I got them down to 150,000. Another company was having 1.5 million
[00:16:00] every year, and I got them down to about 50,000. So following these procedures does. Look out for the company's liability, but what was more important to me was making sure that the employee was 100% cared for. So what I did is I created a nice little guide that outlines my procedures step by step in everything that I think about in incident procedures.
But the only way to get your hands on this musty guide is to become a member of management academy. And here's the kicker. It's actually not in the course. You can add it on if you are a student, but you can get your hands on. This thing absolutely free. When you enroll in safety management academy, within 24 hours of attending my masterclass.
So my masterclass is had to manage workplace safety. It's a one hour-ish I think it's running about an hour and 20 minutes online masterclass that will teach you the three basics of safety management, how to break down a regulation and my secret to getting management support. So, all you do is have to go to
[00:17:00] thesafetygeek.com/howto , all one word, how to, to enroll.
And there are times available each weekday for you to watch it. And if you decide to enroll in safety management academy, following this masterclass and you do so within 24 hours, you can get your hands on my incident procedures guide. Absolutely free. So be sure to check it out. That is thesafetygeek.com/howto . Alrighty.
My safety friend. I hope that you enjoyed today's episode. And I hope that you're not taking in as a word of warning and that you're not gonna join our amazing profession. I probably should do one about the five best things about safety management. But I feel like I talk about that all the time, because I love this job so much, but anyway, I would love to hear about your worst things that you have encountered, and you are welcome to find me on all the social media out there, comment on this post or anyone in my posts. And just tell
[00:18:00] me what's the worst things that you feel. Are part of our job. I would love to know. Alrighty. I will chat with you again soon and you have an amazing day. 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 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 the safety geek dot com forward
[00:19:00] slash S M A and I will see you in our next students only live session. Buy 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:
- Identifying the Worst Things About Safety Management
- How to Handle Complicated Tasks as Safety Professionals
- Right Safety Programs and Processes for Employees Care
- Effective Safety Procedures to Reduce Company’s Liability
- My Own Experience in Handling Workplace Accidents and Injuries
NOW IT’S YOUR TURN
Now that you learned some of the worst parts of Safety Management. Have you experienced these? And what action did you do to make things better in your workplace?
It’s nice to hear your answers, and if you have other worst cases that you experience, I also love listening to them so we can help each other with our struggles at work. You can share it in the comments 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.