November 01 2021
By: Shawn M. Galloway
Should human resources be available anyplace work occurs to ensure employees are not harassing each other? Should the finance manager be present at all purchasing transactions to ensure responsible decisions arise? Should the general council attend all networking events to monitor confidential information is not shared? Should the safety professional be standing by to ensure adherence to all safety rules at all times? Or, does this responsibility fall on line leadership? All of this does. There is individual responsibility for compliance with company policies and rules. It is line leadership's role to enforce all of this while also coaching for better performance. Why, then, have the safety professionals become the COVID cops?
To achieve excellence in safety performance and culture, the perceived role of the safety professionals must evolve from being viewed as the police to becoming a coach, teacher, mentor, advisor and challenger of the status quo. Since March 2020, this safety police perception has been coming back strongly.
Many companies were already stretched thin with their environmental, health and safety (EHS) resources. These resources have had to pivot to new developing, implementing and overseeing COVID requirements, letting things like relationship-building, communication and training diminish in quantity and quality. It is time we return to making risk-based and data-driven decisions on where we focus all EHS prevention efforts and who is responsible for what. EHS professionals being held accountable for enforcing or even policing adherence to these new COVID requirements and allowing supervisors to focus on making the production happen in these challenging times sends the wrong message and will undo much of the previous excellent culture improvement work of many organizations. Are you evolving or devolving operational responsibilities for EHS requirements?
"Being responsible sometimes means pissing people off." - General Colin Powell
Shawn M. Galloway is CEO of the global consultancy ProAct Safety. He is a trusted advisor, professional keynote speaker, and author of several bestselling books on safety strategy, culture, leadership, and behavior-based safety. He is a monthly columnist for several magazines and one of the most prolific contributors in the industry, having also authored over 700 podcasts, 200 articles, and 100 videos. Shawn has received awards and recognition for his significant contributions from the American Society of Safety Professionals, National Safety Council's Top 40 Rising Stars and Top Ten Speakers, EHS Today Magazine's 50 People Who Most Influenced EHS, ISHN Magazine's POWER 101 - Leaders of the EHS World and their newest list: 50 Leaders for Today and Tomorrow, Pro-Sapien's list of The Top 11 Health and Safety Influencers and is an Avetta Distinguished Fellow.