5 Workplace Safety Skills
Every safety professional needs to possess a certain set of skills over and above an academic health and safety certification, compliance knowledge and recognised accreditation. Possessing the requisite technical knowledge without the ability to translate that into daily conversation will greatly hinder your ability to minimise workspace hazards. These are some of the most common skills a safety officer should seek to acquire and improve upon to be more effective in the role:
The most important part of handling safety issues is pre-empting them. Along with being able to identify hazards themselves through their own inspections and investigations, a good safety officer should be able to offer people the opportunity to speak up and the ability to empower the team members on issues regarding their workspace and personal safety. He or she needs to be able to motivate the employees regarding their personal safety and to listen in on their observations and worries.
Proper Writing Skills
A health and safety officer will be required to produce memos, cautions, safety manuals and regular communication to stakeholders both within and outside of the workspace. Proper writing skills are a must have therefore, considering that the cost of miscommunication on safety issues is potentially catastrophic.
The best safety managers understand how the safety of the workspace impacts the company's bottom line and they can easily articulate the commercial cost of damages. They also know how the safety costs and conversations fit in with the other areas of the business. Safety is one of the aspects of a business unit that liaises with just about every other office and being able to articulate the link between the safety office and the other department is a valuable skill.
It can be enormously tempting for senior managers and directors in some workplaces to override and instruct staff to ignore health and safety measures in order to increase profits. This can be especially tempting during times of struggle when the company is finding it difficult to make ends meet. A health and safety officer with business knowledge will be able to point out that aside from being illegal, the potential financial costs to the company which can result from a health and safety incident or accident taking place on the premises.
Potential financial penalties include:
- Fines from authorities
- Compensation claims
- Payment of statutory sick pay
- Recruitment costs for a temporary replacement (or permanent one in serious cases where the person is never able to return to work)
- Training this new recruit
- The loss of production whilst the new person is trained and brought fully up to speed
- Accident investigation expenditure
The list of potential costs is extremely long, which means aside from the moral responsibilities, firms should be keen to prevent harm coming to their employees for financial reasons too.
Safety Conversation Skills
As a safety officer you should be able to communicate complex safety procedures and plans in a way that non-professionals can understand and comply. You should be able to relay safety information in such a way that it fosters safety discussions within the team in a non-threatening manner. Never make people feel stupid or ignorant when they don't understand the safety knowledge being imparted and require clarification or further explanation. The team should always feel empowered by the forums and meetings held regarding workplace safety.
Proper Record Keeping
Some safety issues tend to be seasonal while others tend to happen frequently and in certain moments. A properly trained safety manager should be able to keep up-to-date records on the company's safety policy. This will help him or her to produce well informed quarterly and annual records on hazard incidences as well as figure out the most common risks, their place of occurrence and their level of impact.
Proper record keeping will not only be necessary for any accident investigations or inspections from the authorities, but it can also identify patterns which highlight dangers and hazards which were not previously noticed. For example, if the entries in an accident book all seem to relate to a particular piece of machinery, additional safety and protective features may need to be installed.