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Making the Most of a Safety Department of One

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If you’re “it” when it comes to safety management in your organization—or if it just feels like it sometimes—here’s some helpful advice.

Does your safety department consist of just you? With safety as such a key factor in morale and profitability, that’s a lot of responsibility on your shoulders.

·         How do you determine the best place to start, given limited time and money, to make sure you keep your workers safe and keep your company in compliance?

·         What should you be focusing on?

·         How do you make sure you stay on top of everything?

In a BLR webinar titled “Safety Department of One: How To Keep Workers Safe and Avoid Penalties for Noncompliance,” Fran Sehn outlined some tips on the priorities for a safety department of one.

Sehn is the Assistant Vice President, Casualty Risk Control Services, for Willis of Pennsylvania, Inc. His consulting work also includes providing safety audits, hazard assessments and safety training for a variety of manufacturing, commercial and industrial clients.

Sehn says there are several important steps you can take to have world-class safety, even without many people on your team.

Determine the managerial perspective on safety within your organization. This is the single most important thing to turn your attention toward before anything else, as it will set the tone for your ability to drive safety initiatives; this information will determine the direction of the health and safety initiatives in the organization and will tell you how much support you will have. You will want to know whether the safety attitude is reactive or proactive.

Analyze the current state of safety in the organization. This can be done with an initial SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats). This will prove valuable for planning the safety process going forward.

Align safety with the business goals and objectives. Reviewing the mission statement and overall goals of the organization will help align the safety process. The results of the review will determine the direction; it may be compliance, the creation of a safety management system, or some combination of the two. Sehn says that “most safety professionals can do the compliance part . . . [but] to take the program to another level you really need to look at how we integrate safety into the process. What do we do from a hazard assessment, a risk-assessment standpoint? How do we take those kind[s] of things and really embed it into the business practices?” Compliance is part of this, but a dynamic safety management system will combine the two to prevent incidents from occurring.

Understand your legal requirements. The OSHA standards you’re subject to depend on what industry you’re in, but everyone has to be familiar with some of the regulations. Take steps to ensure you understand all of the requirements applicable to your organization.

Develop a safety plan.  The safety professional must look at safety from a business plan standpoint. A budget for safety may be required by some companies. The cost of safety may require a return on investment. The safety professional must perceive safety as a business process.

Write the safety program. The elements of the program will depend on the nature of the business and the operations. The program may include but not be limited to the following:

·         Hazard communication

·         Personal protective equipment

·         Walking and working surfaces

·         Electrical safety

·         Emergency and fire prevention plans

·         Cranes and powered industrial trucks

·         Lock out/tag out (control of hazardous energy)

·         Confined space entry

·         Fall protection

·         Industrial hygiene

·         Fleet safety