What To Do If You Are a New Safety Manager

What To Do If You Are a New Safety Manager

Another Safety Reflection by the late George Robotham

Draft for discussion with my boss, I recognise this just represents a starting point and will be changed after my evaluation of the current Safety Management System

Main objective for the first month is for me to get to understand the business and the people, get the people to understand me and get the people to trust me. Attempting too big a change and / or changing things too quickly can create an adverse reaction and alienate the very people you want to make allies. Learn the context, culture and past before trying to make changes. Unless a crisis situation is apparent realise effective change requires a lot of effort and time.

John P. Kotter speaks of 8 steps for successful large scale change- Increase urgency, Build the guiding team, Get the vision right, Communicate for buy-in, Empower action, Create short-term wins, Do not let up, Make change stick.

Learn what others expect of me and need, particularly what my boss needs, help my boss succeed. Get some runs on the board quickly, particularly what my boss needs. Remember the customer is king.

In the first 3 months develop a plan for required change.

  1. Discussion and brief from boss on requirements and organisational needs. What do I have to do to help the organisation achieve its OHS objectives? Clarify objectives and desired time frame. It may be decided to form a project team to oversee the management of the OHS processes, The existing safety committee may or may not be appropriate for the project team. A detailed project plan will be required.
  2. Send out brief e-mail self introduction. Spend sufficient time in the field to build relationships and understand the reality of how the organisation is managed. Build a robust Safety Management System built on the lessons in the paper What Makes a Safety Management System Fly (Published in an international safety best-practice publication) Have succinct S.W.P. with pictures, diagrams, flow charts etc. Train supervisors and workers in risk assessment and job safety analysis and get teams working on the processes. Make sure the safety committee, tool box meeting and safety representative system is working well. Carry out regular safety inspections. Ensure safety is well incorporated in performance appraisals, emergency response plans (Practice these), contractor documentation and accident investigation. Use positive performance indicators.
  3. Meet individually and collectively with the safety team before meeting managers (Refer to discussion guidelines) Work with the team on developing an appropriate team building activity. Adopt the roles of mentor / coach / advisor as well as team leader. I see an important part of my role is to help those in the safety team to develop their skills.
  4. Meet with business unit managers and their staff as the manager selects (Refer to discussion guidelines) Identify the business units OHS needs.
  5. Carry out a force field analysis with the senior management team and a representative number of the business units, this will give some input to strategic and operational OHS management plans.
  6. Get a feel for safety management system by reviewing recent safety management system audits. If an audit has not been carried out recently carry one out. Examine past accident experience and consider if there are any immediate quick fixes that can be made. Identifying one or 2 accident types to address and addressing them can quickly give credibility to the safety effort, the chances are manual handling will be one of the accident types.
  7. Meet with the government regulator, unions and other stakeholders to get their perspective on implementing required OHS change in the organisation.
  8. A priority is to ensure, as a minimum, that safety legislation is being conformed with. It has been said the role of safety legislation is to punish the guilty and keep the innocent nervous.
  9. Examine the adequacy of current OHS learning and if necessary carryout an OHS learning needs analysis with the view of developing a Corporate OHS Learning Plan. Put a particular focus on reviewing induction learning. A high level learning program for supervisors and managers may be considered necessary.
  10. In association with management and selected members of the safety team develop a strategic OHS management plan. Once this is developed work with the business units on developing operational OHS management plans. Processes must be defined in writing so that they can be used if the process owner is run over by a truck.
  11. Ensure managers / supervisors / informal leaders understand and practice OHS Leadership. Run a series of short workshops on OHS Leadership. Pilot the workshop with the safety team before going live to others.
  12. Introduce the concept of “Safety Champions” and see how it is received. Need a corporate safety champion and one at each major business unit, the more management horsepower these people have the better.
  13. Assess whether there is an adequate return on investment to have The Brief Group conduct a Mock Court for the management team. An alternative is to work with the organisations legal team on a similar approach.
  14. Ensure workers, supervisors and management have an understanding of their OHS responsibilities under Statute and Common Law
  15. Brief management, supervisors and workers on the implications of the harmonised safety legislation
  16. Put the various OHS Management Plans into action and monitor their effectiveness through regular internal audits. Consider the advantages of external accreditation to A.N.Z.S. 4801.

General notes

  • Aim for succinct paperwork but bear in mind it has to be defensible in court
  • Aim for simplicity rather than complexity but bear in mind it has to be defensible in court
  • Use face to face communications for important initiatives
  • Use a continuous improvement philosophy and a quality management approach
  • Use real world approaches not theory
  • Use team-building principles
  • Do not take yourself too seriously and celebrate success

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