HR professionals play a critical role in building a culture of safety

Few professions have such varied functions as the human resources professional.

Recruitment and hiring. Pay and benefits. Policy formation and management. The HR professional touches every department and every employee.

Among these duties is one of the most fundamental responsibilities of an organization: to ensure the safety and well-being of its employees.

HR professionals have different levels of obligations in this area, usually depending on the size and resources of an organization. A large company can completely separate its HR and security roles. Another may ask them to work in tandem. And some smaller companies with fewer resources may assign responsibility for security solely to a human resources manager.

But ultimately, in one way or another, HR professionals will have a role to play in creating and maintaining their organization’s culture of safety.

Mohammad Farhat Ali Khan, head of quality, health, safety and environment for Qatar-based shipping company Milaha, reinforced this idea at the Global Learning Summit hosted earlier this year by the Board of Certified Safety Professionals (BCSP).

“Human resource management is key to creating a safe work environment and a proactive and preventative culture,” Khan said. “Human resources professionals play an important role in ensuring employee health and safety because they know the workplace, the employees, and the demands of their jobs.”

Intersection of HR and Security

Laura Rhodes explored the intersection of human resources and security from two different angles.

As an associate professor in the Department of Security Science at Indiana University in Pennsylvania, Rhodes teaches security theory in an academic setting. As a Certified Safety Professional (CSP) with her own safety and regulatory consulting business, she puts these theories into practice.

What she sees on the ground is that not only do most small businesses lack a dedicated security role, but many lack an HR professional who has been formally trained in these responsibilities. This makes it even harder to wear both hats effectively. But the crossover is so great, especially at the small business level, that an understanding of the relationship is vital.

“If you have your job description and it says the employee has to climb a ladder, they have to be on their feet for four hours, they have to be able to lift 50 pounds and bend and walk with those 50 pounds, that’s core to the HR work,” Rhodes said. “But that’s where we have a crossover with safety because then we can look at ergonomics and NIOSH [National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health] lifting guide where you plug in numbers and measure how far someone reaches above their head. Is it too heavy to include this twist? Can we get rid of this twist?”

It’s hard to answer these questions if you haven’t had the proper training.

Safety breeds profitability and commitment

Regardless of who bears the ultimate burden, a strong safety culture is crucial. And not just for compliance with state and national regulations. At AlertMedia 2022 State of Employee Safety Report, only 53% of survey respondents thought their safety was “extremely important” to their employer. At the same time, respondents value security as much as compensation when considering career changes.

And while a good safety record is beneficial for attracting and retaining quality employees, it can also affect a company’s business health. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Payroll Safety Estimator assesses the impact of safety on profitability, considering things like profit margins and average injury and illness costs.

“An HR professional can help impress upon directors that if increased employee productivity, improved company reputation and increased annual profits sound like the kind of things they would like to see more, it’s time to start paying more attention to health and safety,” Khan said.

Who to turn to for help

Sometimes, however, it can be difficult to know where to start. Rhodes said that one of the most common questions she receives during the consultation is how to locate security practices training: “Where can I find information on implementing a forklift safety? Where can I find information on implementing a blood-borne pathogen program?

The good news? Help is available in different forms.

OSHA has the on-site consultation program for small and medium businesses. Consultants come to you free of charge and help you identify hazards and compliance issues that could otherwise result in penalties from OSHA inspection personnel. They can help you formalize a security program.

There is also the American Society of Safety Professionals ANSI/ASSP Z10.0 Occupational Safety and Health Management Standard, which provides a risk assessment tool to help determine the likelihood of injury. potential and its severity. It is a tool that Rhodes shares with each of its clients.

Accredited professionals can help solve a specific problem or situation. When Rhodes identifies the need for one of her clients to seek outside expertise, she says she always recommends finding a Verified Expert, someone like a Certified Safety Professional (CSP) or Certified Industrial Hygienist ( CIH) whose competence is demonstrated by their certification.

Preparing HR for security work

Ultimately, however, Rhodes would like to see a world in which HR professionals enter the workforce with a higher level of security training that has taught them the theory to help them make decisions. At Indiana University in Pennsylvania, she’s starting to see more students who aren’t safety majors in her Safety 101 class, as other campus departments recommend or even require students to add a class. security to their major-specific course offerings.

“Sending them for additional training is great, but my view is that the college curriculum needs to include safety,” Rhodes said. “When I have non-majors, I try to point out to them, ‘This is where it all comes together. “

Until security education becomes more prevalent at the college level, there will still be HR professionals called upon to take on security responsibilities that they may not have expected and for which they did not. not fully trained.

They may find themselves faced with a number of tasks, including topics such as safety committee administration and employee safety training, disaster preparedness and safety, accident and conflict investigation of security.

Regardless of the size of an organization, the HR professional will always play a role in security, whether it is implementing policies, communicating policies throughout the company, or addressing security issues. safety that arise among employees.

“In addition to overseeing policies and procedures and ensuring employees follow them, the most important role of HR is to ensure that everyone in the organization, from top to bottom, understands that security and occupational health are everyone’s responsibility,” Khan said.

Tyson Mathews[AC1] is a writer for the Board of Certified Safety Professionals.

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