A safety manager is a key team member in any industry. They set safety rules and policies. Employees can rely on them for training and advice. However, the role of safety professional is sometimes given to someone who doesn’t know much about safety.
Safe workplaces are more important than ever. But creating a safety culture doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time. Sometimes, business owners need to invest money. Most importantly, it takes intentional action. How can new safety managers get ready to step into this vital role?
On this episode of the WorkSAFE Podcast, we sit down with Greg Zigulis. He is the President of Sixth Sense Safety Solutions. He has more than 30 years of experience developing safety and environmental programs. Zigulis works with businesses large and small. He uses his experience to help others find solutions that fit their needs.
First, we’ll talk about why the role of safety manager is so important. Then, we’ll share three tips to help safety managers get started. Finally, we’ll recommend a few ways safety managers can start making positive change today.
Listen to this episode on the WorkSAFE Podcast, or read the show notes below.
Why is the role of safety manager so important?
For Zigulis, the importance of safety hits close to home. Both of his grandfathers were impacted by workplace injures. One was injured as a machinist. The other was affected by exposure to chemicals on the job.
Decades ago, injuries were normal in the workplace. But they shouldn’t be part of jobs today. “It’s just a very old-fashioned mindset that really isn’t true anymore,” Zigulis explained. “It doesn’t have to be that way. It shouldn’t be that way.”
Current safety rules and guidance help reduce incidents. However, most were created after an injury happened. “There were some real tragedies that led to the regulations of today”, he added. “There’s a saying about how these regulations all basically came from somebody’s blood, at some point in time.”
For Zigulis, rules and regulations are only part of workplace safety. Best practices and safety measures must be applied all the time to help prevent injuries. Safety managers take on this role.
Where do new safety managers begin?
For a new safety manager, the task of safety can seem overwhelming. There is one important to step Zigulis recommends. Firstly, get started. “There’s a lot to learn,” he advised. “Nobody knows everything.” Most employees know the basic behaviors that will keep them safe. But education is still important. Safety managers need to understand the industry risks, get some training themselves, and start learning.
Understand industry issues
To protect your teams from safety risks, you have to know what to look for. Check out the information available to you. Is there any safety documentation?
For example, look at recent incident reports. What are the most common injuries or incidents? Do any machines need regular repairs? If you look at past information, then you can discover today’s safety risks.
Get safety manager training
Safety managers need safety training. Zigulis knows there’s a lot to learn. “It doesn’t happen overnight. I’ve been doing this for thirty-five years and I’m still learning,” he said. “You just have to keep at it and stay organized.”
Identify some sources of information for your industry. Associations are a great place to start. In addition, they often offer training and certification courses. Zigulis recommends the following to begin your search:
- National Safety Council
- American Society of Safety Professionals
- American Industrial Hygiene Association
- Occupational Health and Safety Administration
Groups like these offer regular chances to learn about safety. Talking to current members can determine if the organization is right for you.
Once you’ve identified the most important safety issues and found some good sources, start building your own learning plan. First, read the regulations and requirements for your industry. Then, take some training courses. Free fact sheets and training presentations are available online.
Above all, talk to employees. Ask what safety risks they face. What concerns do they have? Their input will help shape your learning.
Safety managers: Creating a safety culture one step at a time
For Zigulis, a safety culture isn’t created in just one day. It may take time and money. But being new to the job is something that shouldn’t stop you. “An organization doesn’t have to perfect to start working towards this,” he said. If you take one step at a time, then you can make the changes you need. New safety managers can start today by:
- Talking to leadership. Get their support for future plans.
- Keep learning. Commit to knowing more.
- Ask questions. Reach out to experts for help.
For free safety posters, sample policies, and safety toolkits, visit our Resource Library. Then, tune in to our recent WorkSAFE Podcast episode about how to build a safety culture with leadership support.