The Lone Safety Ranger
Everyone benefits when a workplace's lone safety ranger gets more support.
Moviegoers love a lone hero. It's thrilling to sit back in our seats and watch them stand up strong even when they're outnumbered and the odds are stacked against them. Somehow, they always come out on top. Hurrah for good triumphing over evil! The hero saves the day, and we cheer their victory.
But what about our safety heroes?
Lone Safety Rangers
When it comes to driving safety, being a lone safety ranger may not end so well.
Throughout my years as a safety professional, I have (all too often) come across lone safety rangers. They're those lone safety coordinators and managers who are tasked with promoting safety in an organization that does not support them. They're usually frustrated and feel like they're fighting a losing battle.
I'm calling them the lone safety rangers, but they're often viewed as the “safety police.” Employees see them only as enforcers of safety rules and regulations. They figure these safety cops probably had no friends as a child. They're the same people that tell you to put down your phone while driving your car (learn about the risks of distracted driving).
This One Thing!
I love to travel. Lucky for me, working in safety has given me the opportunity to visit some wonderful places, mostly helping manufacturing facilities.
Factory environments are challenging. Safety often competes with production for importance. “Profit is king,” is never said out loud but is too often the factory's silent slogan. If you’re going to compete in a global economy, you must deliver exceptional quality promptly within pricing set by the market – and safety is often the first corner that gets cut.
In almost every factory I have visited, I was asked the same question: "How do we make safety stick?" My answer is always the same. It comes down to this one thing; upper management must commit to safety as the number one priority. Safety must come first, and they must state that loudly and often. Employees know what is important to management and they act accordingly (check out these 5 Ways to Get Executive Buy-In for Health and Safety).
Should Profit Come Before People?
I hope that question kind of offends you. It should.
(Unless you’re not a person, in which case, I am both scared and impressed that you're reading this!)
Let’s simplify this profit-over-people perspective. Think about these scenarios:
- Would you go to a doctor that bragged to you that they only became a doctor to make lots of money?
- Would you eat at a restaurant if you know the owner boasted about profit at the expense of food quality and service?
- How would you feel if your supervisor told you, “Money is more important to me than you are?”
And here is the moral safety compass question: would you feel comfortable with your adult son or daughter working for a company that put them at risk for the sake of profit? (Learn more about The Moral Safety Compass.)
We understand the golden rule: “Treat others as you would like to be treated.” This should include looking out for each other’s safety.
We survive as communities by looking out for each other. We don’t sacrifice our neighbor’s wellbeing for our own. By taking care of each other, we develop loyalty and build trust. We become stronger as a group.
The best things your employees can offer you are things you can’t demand; they have to be earned. I'm talking about their resourcefulness and engagement. Resources are limited; resourcefulness is limitless.
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Everything we do comes down to people and processes. Focus on your people and you will create amazing processes. Your employees are your greatest asset, this makes protecting them your number one priority.
Do you have a lone safety ranger? If they're the only one driving safety at your company, it will be a rough road for safety initiatives.
Companies need a unified front for valuing safety. When you value safety, it says you value your people, your team. Management needs to have one voice. You will find this is the case with all goals:
When all management speaks with one voice and act as a unified front, employees believe the message. If your safety manager is the only one supporting safety, they may be fighting a losing battle. Senior management needs to elevate safety. You need more than one safety voice. You need a chorus of them, from all those in leadership positions. Don’t leave your safety officer hanging.
Safety professionals are protecting your greatest assets – your employees. Join forces and support them!
So, who is your lone safety ranger, and what can you do to assist them?