What’s Your Toughest Job as Safety Manager?

What’s Your Toughest Job as Safety Manager?

By Jillian Hamilton.

• Getting buy-in from senior managers?
• Working with uncooperative supervisors?
• How about proving the value of your program?


What if you could talk their language? – What if when you spoke they listened?


Getting buy-in from senior managers

Want buy in from the Senior Leaders… You need to talk their language.

At work they talk about Cost – Dollars, Profit, Revenue and Return on Investment.

If you don’t understand these terms you need to learn them.

This is the international language of business.

As a safety professional, if you want to persuade and influence, you need to talk to these people in the way they talk.

Ever seen a successful conversation between a Japanese guy and a Chinese guy? (Here’s a tip – they only speak one language each – and they are not the same).

The same can be said when you talk about safety and the people don’t understand.

When you talk in numbers immediately the ears are turned on – you are now talking to their pocket – and they hear you – every word you are saying.

We have found the application of the Risk DollarisationTM (Talking in Numbers) ensures true engagement at the very senior level of an organization. Its results for this are unfounded from usual safety and risk terms of reference.

The great news is that there is data to support you, and the proof of return on investment for safety.

Recently at the World Congress for Safety and Health 2017; ISSA (International Social Security Association for the world) released The Return on Work Reintegration.

They use financial balance sheets for employers to estimate the return on investments directed at medical and rehabilitation measures for injured workers.

Returns on these investments are calculated from the perspectives of employers, WorkCover and society.

Expenditure on safety and rehabilitation is an investment that offers a positive return for all stakeholders.


Working with Uncooperative Supervisors

We all know how fun it is to deal with that one supervisor – what you have more than one?

Sure we have all had them before – some are better and more pleasant than others.

I had a beauty – when I was in Perth – I had a safety guy return from the Cape Lambert.

He was sobbing as he told me the story of the Supervisor who was bullying him – he quit the very same day – he wasn’t inexperienced – he had worked in safety for many years and he was approaching retirement.

As you may guess who the client was – you would also know we had about five more hours until the Approved Appointed Safety Advisor had to return to site.

Yes; you guessed it – me.

As it turned out the Supervisor was also “famous” for punching people – that ceased the day I arrived…

So I returned that same day to site and met for the first time, my Supervisor.

This Supervisor did not pity the fool – and if you don’t know your stuff – it was out the door – well the rules of the Client and knowing their procedures is the same – and the laws are written – in our books it’s no excuse, and the costs of down time are merely not justifiable.

So we worked together – within weeks, the site had been recommended for a monthly safety award, and the weeks later the project ended and I got to return to my shiny castle in Perth.

Why was this Supervisor so bitey – it was a personal reason, but coupled with incompetency, he was inflamed.

We worked together and I was industrial; knowing the time, budget, cost and programme, we worked to make sure it was both planned and executed safely.

Not a single challenge in the seven weeks post.

Sometimes a different approach that includes time cost budget and knowing the rules helps…


How about Proving the Value of your Program?

We all know this story – the safety team are off shoveling cash in the fire again – you want what?

How much will that cost?

What – we don’t have a budget for that… Go Away… As if – Dream Away – I need this, but do you see me putting one on a purchase order!

Yes Safety People have hex marks and cross hairs on them – safety costs money – your division is allocated a budget (or you don’t get one and you just have to beg for money)…

But no one reports back on the return of investment – the value of safety – do you know how?

As a safety professional, you must report on the costs and value of safety.

We call it Financial Reporting for Non-Financial Risks.

If costs are not allocated, the value is not realized, and the costs are not being marked, measured and managed.

During our crash course on how to prove safety is of value both for the people but as well as the financial reinvestment – we even had our job re-advertised – more than once!

When you can talk in a financial way, it proves that that investment in prevention and return to work pays – it is financially positive and viable to invest in safety.

By talking in dollars, it creates a position of complete visibility of true damage costs and highlights opportunities to manage the damage.

I worked in a place where the focus was purely financial – and the higher you get in the business, the more I found that the senior leaders only spoke “financial” – I knew that I could convince them that “Safety” was of worth and value by also talking in numbers.

I knew if I didn’t – I would not be heard and people would continue to suffer at the mercy of “it’s not allowed for”…

This way of talking about safety (non-financial risk), making safety into dollar terms, enables leaders to make more informed decisions – it means they can’t just say no.

You bring a financial business case for the reasons for your safety investments and the value of the return expected.

This unique approach to ‘dollarising’ risk reduces the cost of damage (stops people getting hurt) and the negative impact on the business budget.

HSEQ professionals must be able to quantify in dollars their areas of responsibility.

By using financial terms stakeholders are clear on their positions as they are clearly defined, accountable and visible.

It removes the ambiguity and assigns a specific economic value for risk rather than today’s current qualitative terms.

Data is objective – just like any budget item.

It ensures all damage risk are marked, measured and managed, in financial terms just as any other financial cost can be, not just at catastrophe stage.

This application of dollars helps them understand.

It is clear, transparent, visible and accurate.

The numbers don’t lie.

It improves the decision making process and the economic outcomes.

Safe Work Australia agree – in the recent report Measuring and Monitoring Safety March 2017.

It highlights that WHS reporting needs to provide relevant, robust and timely information to inform decisions that influence ongoing business performance.

We are all too comfortable with talking about Safety in dollars when it’s far too late – we know the costs of damage to people life and property; we have heard about the legal costs the fines.

Why is it that we talk about risks in dollar terms only when it’s absolutely too late?

If we don’t address the true value of risk, and avoid managing this as we would any other budget item – we would simply expect a catastrophic event to occur.

It’s like having a company credit card that everyone has an additional user card in their wallet – you can use it any time – it is not accounted for or budgeted for and it is only paid for once a year – imagine what that bill would be at the end of the year.

If you don’t know the value of safety and the costs of damage at your workplace, I guess it’s going to remain tough.

Once you harness this power of engagement – the results are astonishing.

Risk Dollarisation – 2 mins from Manage Damage on Vimeo.


CLICK HERE to buy your ticket to the NSW Regional Safety Conference & Expo and get the chance to listen to Jillian’s story for yourself.