Magazine article Risk Management

Safety Management

Magazine article Risk Management

Safety Management

Article excerpt

One General Motors official noted that in the late 1980s, the company had to develop and produce 168,000 vehicles just to cover its annual workers' compensation costs. Nationwide surveys, showing that the demand for safety managers is on the upswing, further attest to the pressing need for individuals with extensive safety training to serve in private industry, government, mining and education.

Engineers can define and abate safety and health problems in the workplace, but industry and government need knowledgeable and adept managers to implement these types of programs. Safety management professionals are responsible for determining future safety trends and designing programs to satisfy future needs. Thus, it is vital that the training of future managers and professionals reflect the growth of the field's importance, and that educational programs are designed to be strong in both foundation and application concepts.

While the need for the management approach to safety is getting stronger day by day, the sophistication of the safety movement has gone only so far beyond the original paradigms of the safety function and manager. The real need today is to bring all of those involved in safety under one umbrella. The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, and more recently the Consumer Products Safety Commission, have accentuated a long-existing need for management-oriented (not just engineering- or enforcement-oriented) programs aimed at preparing students to serve within the safety and health functions as directors, coordinators, or managers in business or government agencies. And individuals with extensive training and concentration in safety and health studies are the people of choice to plan, establish and conduct these educational programs.

Setting an Agenda

School administrators and safety and health professionals alike must first agree upon program standards, and then decide what the future trends in safety are likely to be. The curriculum should assure that students understand both the foundation and application concepts emphasized by the contemporary safety and health movement. In order to assist schools and colleges in establishing or improving programs for effective accidental loss countermeasures, educators must observe those trends that favorably affect personnel and the work environment and weigh the impact. Furthermore, educators must recognize that if line supervisors and corporate professionals operate independently rather than together to achieve explicitly stated objectives, the end result will most likely be program failures in the workplace.

There have been many terms used within the safety discipline to explain the definition of "safety." One states that "safety is a discipline that deals with: causation and prevention of accidents; mitigation of accident consequences; care of injured persons; salvage of damaged property; and protection of the accident site." There are other definitions too numerous to discuss, but each one conveys the same basic information. Truly, then, safety managers must be corporate generalists (those with a handle on all the various components of an organization) and that is where their strength will lie.

On the other hand, it must be recognized that occupational specialization based on industry type can provide expanded career opportunities for safety professionals since hazards and subsequent safety requirements vary according to the enterprise, production techniques, size and design of the plant, and the composition of the work force. For example, the problems and expertise of a safety manager in a glass making factory will obviously differ somewhat from those of a safety supervisor at an automobile manufacturing plant.

In the early 1980s the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) conducted a study"The Nationwide Survey of the Occupational Safety and Health Workforce"-to provide information for assessment and guidance to educational instructors and individuals interested in careers in occupational safety and health, governmental agencies, foundations-in short, anyone with an interest in manpower needs and development in this field. …

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