I once interviewed for a Safety Manager position at a chemical production facility. It was a nightmare. At one point I found myself sitting alone in the plant manager’s office waiting for over an hour for him to show up.
When he finally did show, he proceeded to tell me that he didn’t have time to see me. But being the gracious and kind man he was, he suggested that if I wanted to hang around (for another few hours), he’d meet me at a bar down the street and we could talk then. I declined, but as I got up to leave he said something that stuck with me.
“You know,” he said. “I think the safety program is good when I have no idea what the Safety Man does.” Maybe that was bait, but I tend to think he was serious. That thought is what I’m going to tackle today.
If that guy was being serious about his position I’m willing to bet it’s because he actually has no idea what a good Safety Professional should do. I’m also willing to bet that there are thousands more like him. And you know what? It’s your fault.
It’s actually the safety profession’s fault at large, so don’t get your panties in a bunch just yet. This post could easily become a book chapter (or two…), so let me keep it pointed: Take a second and think about how your organization talks safety.
Is the conversation a two second blurb about the occurrence (or lack) of injuries from the previous day? Is it a check the box activity and then a quick reminder to “pay attention to your surroundings” before you send the crew out to do the real work? Or is it a meaningful, detailed discussion about what actions need to be taken in order to successfully (and safely) navigate the day.
If that conversation is anything other than the latter, safety isn’t important, it’s extra. It’s time to change the way we talk safety.
In my next post, I’m going to start breaking down some of the common pitfalls that we make which perpetuate the “Safety’s Extra” mentality. Until then check out IT’S A GIANT SLINGSHOT, SIR! and start thinking about getting down to business and really doing what matters.