Companies that make employees’ safety and health a priority often invest in formal safety programs that are directed by a safety manager or, in the case of many large companies, a team of safety professionals. This is especially evident when working in high-risk industries such as marine cargo handling and shipbuilding or repair.
When evaluating the effectiveness of your safety staff, consider the nine following guidelines:
- Successful safety programs are led by management professionals who are knowledgeable in the safety regulations pertaining to their specific industry as well as the best safety practices associated with the work being performed. This typically involves managers who have years of on-the-job experience and can guide the workforce in a positive direction. Effective safety managers also prove to be good coaches with excellent communication skills.
- Safety managers should have good communication with upper management, keeping them abreast on leading (safety audits/inspections) and lagging (incident rate/trends) indicators.
- It is crucial for safety managers to investigate all incidents, including near misses, to determine root cause and corrective action. Lessons learned should be developed and communicated to the entire workforce.
- Safety managers should conduct a worksite-specific hazard assessment and a program compliance assessment on an annual basis. The assessment should be used to determine areas where they may need improvement to comply with federal or state regulations or generally where the company should focus its safety efforts.
- To stay current on standards, new ideas and technologies, safety professionals should participate in ongoing professional development training. This will also provide them with refresher training on various subjects to ensure the company remains in compliance. In addition, they should participate in industry safety associations or related organizations to assist with their networking and professional development.
- Effective safety programs rely on their safety managers to facilitate discussion among internal safety committees. This allows an opportunity for supervisors or department delegates to be involved with the safety process, and to assist with developing safety strategies and best safety practices to address current incident trends or compliance-related issues. Additionally, the safety manager should also oversee a subcontractor safety committee (if the company uses such labor) to ensure all parties comply with multi-employer requirements.
- To promote an organization’s overall safety culture, the safety manager should implement a performance-based (as opposed to a compliance-based) safety program. Performance-based programs tend to be superior to compliance-based programs and allow the workforce to be more involved with the safety process. This is because performance-based programs get personnel and supervisors more engaged with the safety program by participating in safety committees, completing safety inspections, conducting safety meetings and doing more than what the law requires.
- Safety managers should continuously assess their safety program to identify any potential gaps in communication, determine reasons for poor safety performance, and address any obstacles between management and the workforce.
- The safety department should be considered a key part of company operations, so they should be included in production meetings which will help them effectively plan for any upcoming work.