Management’s Role in Safety
Written by Margaret Hebert and Eric Petersen, CIC
We often hear that safety starts at the top, however, what does that actually mean? In this article we’re going to dig into the role that management plays in instituting a culture of safety within a tree care company.
When building a safety and health program, many companies turn to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for guidance. Sure enough, OSHA lists Management Leadership as the first of its seven core elements and for good reason.
Management of an organization, the business owner(s), managers, supervisors, etc., provides the leadership, vision, and resources needed to implement an effective safety program. Being at the top of the organization, management must embrace and communicate a few basic principles:
- Make worker safety a core organizational value.
- Provide sufficient resources to implement and maintain the safety program once it is developed.
- Visibly demonstrate and communicate their safety commitment to workers.
- Set an example through their own actions.
According to OSHA, management leadership of a safety program can be broken down into four action items.
Item 1: Communicate your commitment to a safety program. A clear, written policy helps you communicate that safety and health are primary organization values – as important as productivity, profitability, service quality, and customer satisfaction. After all, without safety, none of these other things can happen.
Item 2: Define program goals. By establishing specific goals and objectives, management sets expectations for everyone on their team and for the program overall. The goals and objectives should focus on specific actions that will improve workplace safety and health. Establish realistic, measurable goals for improving safety and emphasize preventing injury and illness rather than focusing on incident rates.
Item 3: Allocate Resources. Management has the authority to provide the resources needed to implement the safety program, pursue program goals, and address program shortcomings when they are identified. To do this effectively, management must integrate safety and health into the planning and budgeting process. Estimating the resources needed to establish and implement the program and allowing time in workers’ schedules for them to fully participate in the program are two critical components to an effective safety program. Remember to include all of the following when considering what safety resources your company needs: capital equipment and supplies, staff time, training, PPE and Safety Data Sheets.
Item 4: Expect performance. Management leads the program effort by establishing roles and responsibilities and providing an open, positive environment that encourages communication about safety and health. They will identify a front line person or persons (even a safety committee) to be responsible for safety performance. That person or committee charged with safety responsibility will need to make plans, coordinate activities, and track progress. Providing positive recognition for meeting or exceeding safety goals aimed at preventing injury and illness (e.g. reporting close calls or near misses, attending training, conducting inspections) is also a crucial management function.
In case you are wondering what OSHA’s seven core elements of safety and health programs, they are as follows:
- Management Leadership
- Worker Participation
- Hazard Identification and Assessment
- Hazard Prevention and Control
- Education and Training
- Program Evaluation and Improvement
If you have any questions on what role your management team should be playing in your safety culture, please reach out to a member of our ArboRisk team. We have many resources that can help you with this, in addition to our Thrive Safety Package, which gives you one-on-one help creating the safety culture that you desire.