Terry Mathis recently wrote an article for EHS Today entitled "Does Poor Safety Equal Poor Management?" This is a great question. As safety professionals we need to be able to ask and answer this question both philosophically and within the basis of our own organizational experiences.
As a safety management system believer, I believe there is a correlation between a poor safety and poor management. It is about having the balance of an appropriate structure and culture within a sustainable management system that has components such as a management of change, good strong hazard identification processes, risk assessment and control systems, and engagement strategies.
When leadership in an organization just focus on the physical assets and engagement with their people is low, poor results are the business outcomes in many aspects. As leaders grow and understand and shift from that to the wealth created through their people, and the business environment, then results will improve.
I also believe that it works the other way in that if we manage “safety” well, then we can manage other aspects of the business well. In the Alcoa example, Paul O’Neill used the safety topic to change the habits or management process that eventually was introduced into all areas and improved all aspects of the Alcoa business. He also harnessed the strong human need for group identity to build a thriving organization.
So, as safety professionals, to ensure that we understand how to best advise and assist our organizations, we need to make sure that we have in our safety tool box, an understand of business principles, the management systems, human factors complete with engagement techniques.
Eldeen Pozniak is a Canadian Registered Safety Professional, a Certified Health and Safety Consultant, a certified health and safety management system auditor, and a chartered member of the U.K.-based Institution of Occupational Safety and Health. She is the president of the International Network of Safety and Health Practitioner Organizations. She is also the president and owner of Diggins Safety Consulting, and the director of Pozniak Safety Associates. She can be reached through www.pozniaksafety.com.