What should I focus on to be a more effective safety manager? 

As a safety professional, I’ve heard this question many times. The truth is there isn’t one simple answer. Workers, tasks, tools, and job sites can all differ in complexity, tasks, tooling, and execution.  

There are, however, commonalities across industrial occupations that can provide a basis for recommending general areas of focus. For example, industrial workers often do manual work with their hands. They are very likely to use tools or machines and/or repair machinery. Industrial jobs may be conducted at a static location or require travel to different locations.  

Based on these common criteria, I offer 5 tips for where safety managers should put their focus.  

1. A hazard analysis is the foundation for all things safety related. It is essential that you understand your workers, the tasks they complete, and the potential hazards they may encounter. By describing and documenting job scenarios and hazards, you can form strategies for eliminating hazards, creating training, and predicting your desired outcomes.  

2. Safety programs are the written plans that document how you will manage safety across your business. By leveraging the information from your hazard analysis, you create a proactive program to prevent injuries before they occur. You identify training needs, develop audit and inspection processes, and address how to respond to emergencies. Plus, you formalize processes for ensuring management commitment and worker engagement.  

3. Training programs are essential. Effective training equips your workers with the information and skills necessary to be safe and successful in their work. Special emphasis should be placed on hazard identification and avoidance. Remember to differentiate your training by role and needs—workers and managers have different responsibilities. Online training can provide useful, consistent, and convenient training across a variety of topics. On-site training should always be provided as well.  

4. It’s very important to successfully manage your tools and personal protective equipment (PPE). For tools, it’s easy to become complacent and for injuries to occur. You must keep all tools maintained and in good working order. Workers must know how to use them safely. Tools must also be examined before each use and only used according to manufacturer specifications. Similarly, PPE requires effective training and maintenance programs. PPE that doesn’t fit, isn’t maintained, or isn’t used correctly cannot help prevent worker injuries.  

5. Engagement and communication should support your safety strategies. According to the CDC, engaged workers are more productive, satisfied, and, most importantly, safe. This can directly benefit the business bottom line as well. On-going, two-way communication is also paramount. You must effectively communicate information like expectations, hazards, workplace rules, reporting methods, and training requirements. It’s also important to listen to your employees and learn from them. 

Following these tips should help you know generally where to focus your efforts! Remember, every job site is different and it’s your responsibility to ensure your workers have a safe workplace.  




About the author:

Taylor Sikes is a safety professional with over 15 years of experience. He has served as an OSHA-authorized trainer for construction and general industry, holds a Master of Arts degree from the University of Georgia, and has authored numerous courses in workplace safety.


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