A successful safety and compliance team member cannot always be the most liked or the most popular, but must always be well respected. They need to be able to talk to senior management, front line supervisors and employees and be open and honest about what needs to be done to ensure employee safety and regulatory compliance.
Over 250 safety and compliance team members attended Comcast's most recent Safety and Compliance Conference. In preparing my remarks for the conference, I thought I would talk about what it takes to be a great safety team member. As I reviewed the attendee list, one thing was clear: there were no similar backgrounds, education, experience or age. The one thing that everyone did have in common, however, is that they were all leaders.
I walked over to a bookstore to find a book on what makes a person a leader and found a couple hundred on the topic. As I browsed the books, they did not specifically talk about safety or compliance, but focused on senior management, human resources and operations. I quickly drew a connection to our team, however, and found the characteristics that make a successful leader or safety and compliance team member.
First, and I believe most important, is a strong character. A successful safety and compliance team member cannot always be the most liked or the most popular, but must always be well respected. They need to be able to talk to senior management, front line supervisors and employees and be open and honest about what needs to be done to ensure employee safety and regulatory compliance.
A great safety person has an unquestionable commitment to employee safety. If you are not committed to reducing accidents, you should not be in this position. No matter how hard you try to hide your lack of commitment, it will always show in the end.
A safety and compliance team member needs to have great initiative to get the job done. Most organizations may only have one safety professional per office or location and this person has a lot of freedom to excel or fail. Usually, they operate under very little supervision and must be resourceful in finding best practices to try at their company. These best practices can be found over the internet or through newsletters and networking at the local ASSE chapter, the National Safety Council or even the local Chamber of Commerce.
The ability to listen is also a key trait of an excellent safety professional. Because they usually have a lot of freedom to get their job done, safety professionals need to listen to their executive's guidance as to what is required to make the business more efficient. They also need to listen to the operations department about alternatives—not to circumvent safety, but to make it part of the operational culture. Most importantly, they need to listen to the employees. The employees know their jobs better than anyone and can be the best asset in eliminating or reducing a hazard on the job.
By listening to both management and employees, a successful safety team member is known as a problem solver. A problem solver will also have the backing of senior management to try new programs to reduce accidents, but only if they have buy-in from all levels.
Finally, a leader is someone that you can trust without question to keep your best interests in mind and whose commitment and enthusiasm inspires you to follow. The intangible that we call "leadership" is a natural quality of a great safety and compliance team member. ip
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