Magazine article Occupational Hazards

EHS Pros Face Big Challenges

Magazine article Occupational Hazards

EHS Pros Face Big Challenges

Article excerpt

What is the most important issue confronting environmental, health & safety managers?

Participants in Occupational Hazards' recent National Safety Survey had a variety of responses when asked to list their most important workplace issue. Answers most frequently given included upper management support, employee ownership, personnel cutbacks and regulatory compliance. Here's a sample of what they had to say:

"Upper management support is the most important issue. It doesn't matter what the safety manager does if management turns around and does the opposite. You've got to have that support from the top. If I said, 'You've got to wear a respirator in this instance,' management might say, 'We can't afford to take the time to have the employee put it on.' If upper management does not perceive safety as an important issue, safety is never going to be accomplished.

"It's a business decision. When production comes before safety, I think you've lost employees' support. Show management how reducing lost-time accidents increases production and brings savings. Get people to think safety all the time, because you also can lose production time if a person gets injured or killed away from the job." -- Leanne Cobb, environmental and safety officer, Chemet Corp., Attleboro, Mass.

"The most important issue is employee ownership of safety. Safety is incomplete until every employee has ownership of health, safety and environmental issues. Until you get every person to that level of ownership, for accidents not to happen, you literally have to have a safety person standing right there, challenging a worker's assumptions about the safety of that work task.

"We find a lack of an accurate reckoning of a hazard and its possible consequences. We train management to understand how people assign risk based on their perceptions of the consequences. Many times, workers don't think about the consequences of what they are doing, so they don't get an accurate assumption of the risk.

"You've got to have that sense of responsibility and not put yourself in a situation where harm is likely to happen. Until a person is thinking for himself, he doesn't really have ownership, and you won't have a safety culture shift. …

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