Bob Lapidus, CSP, CSMS
There are some decisions relating to safety that are simply right or wrong. Take compliance with Cal/OSHA safety standards. The right thing to do is to guard an unguarded rotating blade or shaft to protect severe injuries to employees. It also prevents the organization from receiving a serious citation or penalty from Cal/OSHA. There is no choice. The machine must have a guard in place.
On the other hand, for some decisions there is no right or wrong answer, just what will work better in the specific organization. For example, deciding how to communicate the safety message to employees or how to ensure dialogue amongst managers, supervisors and employees can be conducted in a variety of ways, but should correspond to each organization’s style.
In an autocratic organization, communication tends to be top down. In a participative organization, communication goes down and up the organization’s chain of command. Although rare, there are some organizations that have no hierarchy of organizational structure. Everyone works together to identify and solve problems.
Our job in the field of safety is to know how the organization actually works and then integrate safety programs into the style and culture of the management/employee relationship. No one safety program or activity works for all organizations.
Over the years there have been attempts to initiate an OSHA requirement that all employers must have a safety committee. Given the above paragraphs, such a requirement would be preposterous. Safety committees work in organizations that are participative in nature. In a top-down management style, all directives come from top management. Most such managers would not listen to what comes out of a participative safety committee. The two forces do not match.
On the other hand, where management does seek participation from its employee workforce, a safety committee can indeed work. Nevertheless, employees expect management to listen to their ideas and integrate them into what the organization is doing for safety. Otherwise, the participative style is a lie and the overall safety program’s credibility is hurt.
Merging safety programs and activities into the established management style benefits everyone concerned. Safety specialists work with management to determine the optimum approach for its safety programs to achieve a win-win outcome for everyone. Buy in from top management is achieved by involving them in making this determination. From that point, safety specialists ascertain what programs and activities will achieve this optimum approach.
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After completing this nine-day program, graduates may take the exam to achieve the Certified Safety Management Specialist (CSMS) designation. Recipients of the CSMS receive a beautiful plaque and become part of an elite group of safety specialists who have achieved this recognition. Once this certification is attained, successful candidates keep it for the rest of their lives without any additional requirements or fees.