10 things successful safety professionals won’t do

We often hear about all the things professionals should do to be successful. But what about the things they should not do? Below are the top 10 things health and safety professionals should not do in order to be successful. This list is by no means expansive but it is a good start.

Don’t act like a cop: It is fair to say that this is number 1 on the list. Ask any guy or girl in the field and they will name this as the number 1 reason why they absolutely loathe the "safety guy". Stop it. You retired from the police force a long time ago, you don't carry the badge anymore. Wielding influence is much more powerful than authority. Wielding your authority hammer like Thor on the work site is bound to create a lot of enemies. Rather, build up goodwill and influence via mentoring and fostering relationships.

Don’t say no to common sense: Have you ever been in that position where the rules state one thing and the situation at hand demands practicality and thus breaking a rule in the process? Sometimes one has to look the other way. There is a name for that, "risk based safety.” I understand that your company is managed via a process based safety system. But in some cases you must trust the experience of the worker, not the rulebook, to manage the situation.

Don’t throw a worker under the bus: There is no “me” or “we” against “them.” It is “us” as a “team” that work together for the common good. You as the safety professional are part of a team, therefore work hard to ensure that the guys can trust you and depend on you to have their back. Break this rule and you will be eating your dinners alone.

Don’t pretend to know everything: Ahh, the safety who tells the workers how to do their job. You are the safety professional, not the pipefitter who has a red seal and 30 years of experience on the job. OK, so maybe your background is in pipefitting, but you are currently not in that occupation anymore — let it go. Please clarify and ask questions about the work that is being done in the field, just don't tell them how to do their job because it appears unsafe in your untrained eyes.

Don’t gossip about co-workers: You have the night shift, the day shift, the front shift, the back shift. It is easy for workers to get used to safeties and how they work. Never ever gossip or put down a fellow safety when someone is complaining about them. You are a team; you don't have to agree with how that particular safety does his job, but respect the person. Unless it's the competition, then by all means run them off site. (Just kidding, we are all people after all).

Don’t just sit in the office or truck all day: Then there is the invisible safety who always has a task to complete in the office. Perhaps it is research, finishing up some paperwork. The list is exhaustive and can get creative. Have a healthy balance of being in the field and being in the office. Don't get married to any statistics like 70 per cent in the field, 30 per cent in the office — that is unnecessary. Spend time where necessary in order to reach your goals and complete your tasks.

Don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions: Yes, men accept everything at face value. “Oh, that truck was already damaged prior to the vehicle inspection you conducted this morning? Oh, OK.”

Often, when the stats for the month look great, it is assumed a job well done and everyone moves on without further ado. While investigating incidents, yes men won't dig, won't go out of their way to ask the hard questions. They don't want to get out of their comfort zone. Be a critical thinker and come up with questions that help you to complete your tasks and goals.

Don’t be intimidated by the business unit: I know the business unit can be scary. Their bottom line is profit; your bottom line is getting everyone to follow the rules and ensuring everyone gets home in one piece. Those two statements are actually married to each other. You cannot achieve profit without a safe workplace. Look for ways to work together and promote safety as a tool that will help achieve the bottom line. I never said that there wouldn't be some pig-headed business unit managers out there, but then your job wouldn't be as much fun, right?

Don’t ever believe the company's TRIF rate: A lot of things are manipulated in life. The way in which a Total Recordable Injury Frequency (TRIF) rate is calculated can be a creative process. However, to voice a concern or note irregularities in the manner in which a TRIF rate is compiled can be tantamount to professional suicide at your place of employ. Some corporations seem to be averse to simply being honest with this number; every sane person knows that on work site where thousands of workers are present your TRIF rate might be elevated. That is OK because this is life, and we have yet to invent a hazard free work zone up North in the oilsands.

Don’t take yourself too seriously: Like you, I am just a regular guy, yet sometimes I tend to feel like I am a pretty important guy. Whenever that starts to happen I remember to visit humble lane and eat some humble pie. At the end of the day it is about being comfortable with who you are and what you are doing at work. Be gracious and polite, have fun when you can and treat each other like you want to be treated. Stay humble and you will be surprised at what you can learn and achieve.

Leo Vroegindewey is the founder & CEO of White Knight Safety.