Wide Range of Skills for Safety Professionals
If you are working as a safety manager or in another safety professional role you will need to have a wide range of different skills in order to meet the needs of the job. While every position will be slightly different, there are many skills that are necessary for every position. Even if they are implemented in different ways, these base skills are essential.
The following are ten of the most important types of skills that you will want to work on mastering. Even if you already have a job as a safety professional, it is always a good idea to attempt to improve your skills so you can make the best possible decisions for the safety of everyone in the facility.
One of the most important skills you can have is the ability to identify hazards that exist within the facility. While some of these safety problems are going to be obvious, others will be more difficult to pinpoint. The following are some key tips that safety professionals can use when looking for those less obvious safety problems:
- Listening to Employees – One of the most important things you can do is listen to what employees are saying about any safety concerns. Even if they just mention something in passing, you need to take it seriously and look into it right away.
- Investigate all Accidents – You need to make sure you take a close look at every accident and injury that takes place in the facility. While many of them will simply be ‘human error’ you will be able to identify some issues that can be fixed with improved processes or procedures.
- Frequent Walkthroughs – Simply walking through the facility looking for potential hazards can be a very effective way to identify risks. This is especially helpful since you don’t already know the different things that people who work in specific areas do to avoid accidents. This gives you the ‘fresh eyes’ that can help to see dangers.
#2 – Verbal Hazard Communication
When discussing safety issues with employees or management you need to make sure you are able to communicate very clearly. Verbal hazard communication often requires precise language so people know what you are talking about.
In addition, you need to make sure you are communicating about dangers in a way that everyone will understand, even if they don’t typically work in a specific area.
#3 – Visual Hazard Communication
Another important part of hazard communication is visual communications. Visual communications can alert people to dangers in the area, even when you aren’t around to provide the warning. Things like floor tape, vinyl labels and safety signs are all effective forms of visual hazard communication.
The role of the safety professional is to make sure that these types of visual hazard communication are as effective as possible. You want to balance using too many of these types of things with the risk of not using enough. Finding that proper balance will help ensure people see and understand them easily, so they can respond to the potential hazard properly.
#4 – Convincing Presentations
One of the biggest jobs of a safety professional is to come up with ideas on how to improve safety, and then implement them. The difficulty with this is often getting the approval from upper management to put these things in place. Most safety improvements will require the investment of time and money on the part of the facility, which is why you need to convince the decision makers that it is a wise use of resources.
There are many different ways to present your safety improvement plans, and it is your job to figure out which ones will be most effective in your specific situation. This can be difficult for many safety professionals because of the fact that it utilizes a different skill set than most of the rest of your job.
#5 – Providing Training
Whether you are coming up with new ways of doing things, putting in new safety equipment, or just reviewing existing things with employees, you will need to provide the training that people can truly benefit from. A high quality training program is much more than just talking to employees about changes that are being made.
You need to figure out ways to help get everyone to really take the safety systems seriously. In addition, you need to make sure that your training programs are efficient so that you are not spending an undue amount of time making sure everyone is up to date and aware of the latest safety initiatives.
#6 – Budgeting
Like it or not, you will have to make sure you stay within budget on all your safety improvements. In an ideal world all the safety programs would be fully funded in every facility, but that is simply not the case. With this in mind, safety professionals need to know how to make the best use of every dollar they have in their budgets.
Prioritizing different improvements in order to get the most out of your budget is extremely important. Choosing to invest in things like an industrial label printer, for example, will allow you to make major improvements to the facilities safety both today, and long into the future, without spending too much money. Of course, you’ll also have to implement more costly improvements, so make sure you have the necessary budgeting skills.
#7 – Knowledge of Regulatory Organizations
As a safety professional you need to be well aware of all the different safety and regulatory organizations out there. OSHA is typically the most important one, but there are many others as well. Knowing about all the rules and regulations that will impact your facility is essential when making any type of safety improvement plans.
Keeping up to date with all the latest changes from these institutions will help you to avoid problems and keep you in compliance. This can take a lot of planning and effort, but it will be well worth it both in terms of safety, and avoiding trouble with inspections.
#8 – How to Pass Inspections
Related to the knowledge of the regulatory organizations, you have to know how to pass the inspections that they will perform. Most facilities will be inspected by one or more organizations, such as OSHA, on a fairly regular basis. Keeping your facility up to date with all their requirements is absolutely essential.
When people come in to perform an inspection, you should do you best to know about the different types of things that they will be looking for. A big part of a safety professional’s job is to ensure the facility passes these types of inspections.
#9 – Gathering & Interpreting Data
You will need to become an expert at gathering data, and learning what it means. It is obvious that you will have to gather information about every accident and injury that takes place, but that is really just the beginning. You will also want to try to gather data about every ‘near miss’ when something goes wrong, but nobody is injured. Any other safety related data you can get can also be very helpful.
As you gather more and more information, you need to learn how to interpret it in a useful way. For example, if you can spot a trend that there are a lot of employees reporting issues with a specific machine, you may need to make some changes related to how people use that particular machine. Using the data you collect to identify and prevent issues before they cause major problems is essential for a safety professional.
#10 – Accountability
The last safety skill in this list is accountability. This skill actually has two components to it. First, you need to always be accountable for the safety of the entire facility. This is a huge responsibility and people’s lives literally depend on you doing a good job. If you want to be a great safety professional, you absolutely must take your job seriously and do your best every single day.
The second component of this, however, is almost as important. You need to hold people accountable for living up to the safety standards that are in place. If people aren’t following the standards that you have for the facility, they need to be written up or given more training. If you aren’t willing to make people follow a procedure, than that procedure should not be put in place.
For many people this can be difficult, but it is extremely important because when some employees aren’t following the safety rules, they are putting everyone in danger.
While this list really just scratches the surface of what types of things you need to do in order to be a successful safety professional, you shouldn’t feel overwhelmed. You need to keep in mind that you will never be perfect, so you should always be trying to improve the way you do your job, and improve the overall safety of your facility. With diligence and hard work, you can be successful.
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