When most people think of a safety manager, they visualize a large manufacturing facility with hundreds of workers and tons of equipment. However, safety hazards are just as likely in a smaller company or even within an office environment. When a company is operating on a shoe string budget or is just starting up, investing in a safety manager might not seem to be a top priority or even an affordable option. However, safety should always be at the top of every business’ list and there are good reasons to invest in a safety manager.
Safety Managers Keep Your Company in Compliance
Safety managers are required to work within federal guidelines. Every change to the workplace made for safety reasons must comply with the law. Companies that have a well-developed safety plan will not have to worry about being fined when an OSHA representative comes for a visit.
In some cases, a manager or a member of the HR team will assume the role of safety manager on a part-time basis within the organization. Unless they are specifically trained to fulfill this role, the company runs the risk of being charged with noncompliance when safety equipment or procedures are insufficient. At a minimum, every company should hire a safety consultant to periodically inspect the operations and make suggestions for improvements.
Safety Managers Work to Eliminate the Problem after an Accident
When an accident occurs at a business, a report must always be filed by the employees involved as well as the on-site supervisor. This accident report typically goes to the safety manager who reviews it. On an ongoing basis, the safety manager looks for accident trends and develops procedures to eliminate the problem. This paper trail will be very important when an insurance adjuster is sent out for an investigation.
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Every injury or significant amount of damage to company property requires an internal investigation into the root causes of the accident. Once the investigation is complete, the safety manager presents his findings to the executive staff and makes recommendations. Consistency and an accurate understanding of unsafe conditions or procedures is vital when there is a major accident that requires compensation from the insurance companies.
An insurance investigator may recommend that a claim be denied if he finds that the company acted negligently. A good safety manager is able to use supporting documentation to present the history of company accidents and the range of follow-up procedures in order to support the company’s claim that the accident was no fault of their own.
A Solid Safety Program Improves the Bottom Line
In companies without a well-developed safety plan headed by a safety manager, safety issues are often ignored or treated on an anecdotal level. It is careful analysis that allows a company to move forward and make positive changes that will profoundly impact the bottom line.
Safety hazards create conditions that lead to down time. This can be as simple as a 15 minute unscheduled break in production due to faulty safety equipment or a company wide shut down after a major incident. In both cases, money is lost and gains are sacrificed.
When Safety Comes First, Employee Morale is Higher
Every worker who arrives at work in good condition should be able to return to their homes without having suffered an injury at work. Employees are cognizant of their value when businesses make it a company priority to ensure worker safety.
Safety issues for employees are not always obvious. They may be matters of individualized ergonomics or can entail training of emergency response teams within the organization.
Safety managers work with employees at all levels to ensure that their injuries are properly treated and to remove the possibility of recurrence. In order to be effective, they may have to consult with outside experts.
Projects such as emergency response teams take considerable organizational skills. Team members must be professionally trained and have access to the necessary equipment to do the jobs that they are trained for. A regular maintenance schedule for this equipment must be developed.
Employees that see a safety manager working hard on their behalf are more likely to work harder on the job and report higher levels of job satisfaction.
What Happens When a Company Does Not Hire a Dedicated Safety Manager?
Not every company can afford to hire a dedicated safety manager. In such cases, they may distribute the work listed above to employees working in other areas, out-source their company safety audits to a specialty firm, or not run a coordinated safety program at all. There are downsides to these approaches which are listed below.
If safety considerations are distributed throughout the company, there is a great deal of risk that the big picture will be lost. Most managers are highly focused on their particular area of expertise and don’t understand how a procedure or practice in their area can adversely affect safety down the line. Additionally, there may be aspects of operations that will be completely overlooked when there is no central authority reviewing the entire process.
In order to overcome this problem, organizations may use the committee model. Each person responsible for at least a single safety issue becomes part of this committee which then reviews the overall safety program and determines policy. A major problem with this approach is that safety operations can become more costly than would be the case with a single safety manager overseeing the entire operation. Because the committee members are not experts in safety, they expend large amounts of time and effort that could be better spent elsewhere.
Hiring a safety consultant is somewhat better than not having a safety program at all. However, because safety consultants are not privy to normal day-to-day operations and they operate without internal clout, the consultant’s report has limited value at best. Not having a safety program at all is a disaster waiting to happen and is the single best reason to invest in a solidly trained safety manager for your business.
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