Safety isn't typically the most exciting workplace topic, but it is one of the most important. And to have an effective health and safety program or culture, you'll need to find someone who can get everyone in the company, from upper management to contract workers, on the same page to create an incident free environment.
Now, we've seen a big shift in health and safety departments in the last few years, and there is a large push towards finding creative and engaging people to create dynamic safety cultures. And while that is part of our own philosophy, we aren't going to push that, because it might not be what your company is looking for. If it is, great! We hope you end up with some fantastic programs that end up on social media for us to enjoy. If not, that's OK too. We just want to cover the basic skills you should look for so that you can find the best fit for your company.
Making a Safety Manager
You will have your own priority list when hiring any new worker, so even though these are among the more sought after traits and skills of a health and safety professional, they are in no particular order.
- Personality. We aren't saying you need to run out and hire Oprah, but effective health and safety requires a lot of communication, and someone who is approachable and comfortable talking to people can really make your health and safety program shine. Find someone who isn't afraid to get out from behind their desk and speak to workers about what is working (or not working) in their day to day processes.
- A team player. A good safety manager realizes that they need to get the whole company on board before they can really start making a difference, however, they also aren't going to throw anyone else under the bus when something goes wrong. Instead of saying "I told John the new procedure for that" it might be approached more like "Clearly there is something about the new procedure that isn't working. I'm going to talk to John and see what we can do to improve on that."
- Proactive. You'll probably want to avoid looking for how a safety manager would react to an incident and instead focus on how they would prevent it from happening at all. Prevention is the key to Occupational Health and Safety, and depending on past managers, could end up costing you a little more money up front if they need to create and set up a brand new program with new equipment and control measures. However, if it reduces the amount of illnesses and injuries you need to claim in the long run, it's money well spent.
- Encourages safe behaviour. If your workers are just getting yelled at and punished for unsafe behaviour, they will simply be more conscious of who is around when they break the rules. If they have an incentive to change the behaviour and follow a safer procedure, they are much more likely to do so. Praising and rewarding safe behaviour is definitely an advantage and can change the entire outlook on the program.
- Keen to learn. A know-it-all makes for a poor safety manager, simply because health and safety regulations and the work environment are constantly changing. Someone who is willing to keep learning new philosophies, obtaining new certifications and staying up-to-date on all the changes made to health and safety legislation that affects your business is going to be much more beneficial to your entire organization.
Ready, set, safe!
Every organization has an image, a direction, and a set of core values that drives it. The most important thing to look for in a safety manager is the same thing you want to look for in any worker you hire, someone who is passionate about and has the same vision as you. You need them to create a program that fits naturally into the flow of the company. Whether you opt for a more traditional safety manager, or are looking to create something more dynamic, making sure that workers are safe is always the number one priority. The direction you take to get there is completely up to you.