As safety professionals, we strive to implement a robust safety process in our organizations to maximize worker protection. We sell our philosophy and ideas to senior management, and then work with line management and the work force to develop and implement the safety process. Through this effort, we are likely to accomplish two major objectives. First, we obtain buy-in from line management and the workers, maybe even ownership for the safety process we implement. Second, we increase the likelihood that the hazards (and necessary controls) associated with the work activities performed by our workforce are identified and addressed by the safety process we implement. Our ambition is to maximize safety and health in the work place, and prevent injuries. Realizing this goal improves overall business operations.
Petersen suggests an accident is an indication of something wrong in the management system (Petersen, pg 15). Successful organizations operate with the safety process fully integrated into the management system. If the management system fails, the safety process has failed the worker. As safety professionals, we must ask ourselves whether we did our job adequately. The better organizations strive for continuous improvement.
The overall success of safety processes, in terms of accident and injury prevention, has improved since safety professionals have learned to involve line management and the workers in the process. Although we maintain the label of "safety expert," our role has shifted somewhat to that of a "facilitator" in the process. The role of the safety professional is to advise and counsel line management (Kohn & Ferry, pg 28). Line management owns safety! If you subscribe to this philosophy, our role of advisor to line management makes perfect sense. Most safety professionals no longer operate as the "safety cop." That role belongs to line management. Instead, our role falls into the category of "oversight" or facilitator. We observe systems, processes and work activities, and then convey our findings and observations to line management. We advise them with regard to what they need to do, and then we help them find workable methods to implement those solutions. Line management owns the responsibility to implement the process and to monitor safety on a daily basis. Safety professionals advocate safety and facilitate process implementation. We help line management meet their responsibilities with regard to safety.
Maximizing safety performance is achieved by maximizing the safety process. Robust safety processes serve as the model and are earmarked by vigorous support of both labor and management. Where a robust safety process exists, the safety professional enjoys interest and support on the part of management and workers. People are motivated to achieve success and willingly accept their roles and responsibilities. Work activities are appropriately planned. Hazards are identified and controlled to safeguard the worker. Work activities are reviewed on a regular basis to avoid the process becoming stale. Goals are established and communicated and serve as a basis on which performance can be measured. People throughout the organization understand their role and responsibilities and are accountable for meeting them.