Answer me quickly: workplace safety is whose responsibility? The correct answer is "everyone's", right? While that may be true, not everyone has "workplace health and safety" listed in their job description. Often, only a handful of people is officially in charge of employee safety. And sometimes, it's only one person. You.
It's a hefty responsibility, and you're up for the task. But what happens when it's not your only responsibility? What if, along with "workplace health and safety", you're responsible for purchasing, managing, research or any other number of duties? The more hats you wear, the more overwhelmed you're likely to feel. Try these tips that are geared towards safety professionals to help you wear all your hats with effortless panache and keep safety at the top of your to-do list.
In theory, it's easy to schedule your work day to tackle different projects at specific times, but when your job description includes a laundry list of duties, task requests don't come pre-sorted. As you field phone calls, random questions and instant messages, you need to manage this jumble of information. Here's where clever software tools can help.
There are plenty of free web-based task management tools on the web. Two of the most popular are Trello and Evernote. Microsoft Office ships with OneNote, its own task management tool. All these apps excel at grabbing information (messages, web pages, articles, images and more) and organizing it the way you like it, which helps you with tip number two...
Once all your inputs are sorted, it's easy to find the information you need. The next step, and often the most difficult, is to decide what's most important. For a safety manager, that means understanding where your company stands in terms of safety plans and procedures, training, equipment and maintenance.
After a careful review, and perhaps an uncomfortable but crucial discussion with your manager, a few priorities should rise to the top. Maybe you're happy with workplace safety rules and can put off a procedural review but you need to focus on training because of an impending hiring wave. Maybe the company's emphasis on safety is fairly new and you need to catalog workplace hazards before you can research and procure safety equipment. The important thing to admit—and to be sure your manager understands—is that you can't do everything at once. With a steady, dedicated effort you'll eventually reach all your workplace health and safety goals, but it will take time.
3) Look for Help
While it takes time to foster an effective safety culture, don't let it take more time than necessary. There are plenty of safety resources available so you don't have to reinvent the wheel. Look for workplace safety articles to give you ideas. Give yourself a headstart with a safety plan template or a workplace safety checklist that someone else has written. Check in with online resources. Get inspired by the stories of other companies that successfully transformed their habits to create a vibrant safety culture. Learning from others will save you time, and time is your most precious commodity when your attention is pulled in many directions.
4) Find Workplace Health and Safety Opportunities
Lastly, even though you're the expert, there's always more to learn. Maybe you're great at crunching data and generating reports, but you hate doing training or safety presentations. Those tasks won't go away, so look for resources to bolster your skills. Does your local safety council offer courses? Can you read up about interesting training techniques? Or how to introduce safe work practices to less-than-cooperative employees?
One thing that sets the safety industry apart from others is its lack of competitiveness, which presents an opportunity to you. Engineers from rival companies, for example, aren't able to discuss proprietary design work. But everyone in the safety industry shares the same goal, regardless of their employer. So take advantage of conferences and networking opportunities to learn how other OHS professionals meet the same challenges you face.