Safety and the C-Suite

There have been thousands of articles and extensive amounts of research on how to get Human Resources a seat at the corporate table, a.k.a. the C-suite. The change from transnational HR to strategic HR has helped many organizations understand the value of having HR personnel in executive positions.

There is a new trend and progressive organizations are now seeing the value of having safety professionals at the C-suite, not just HR professionals. The problem is, we are not sure the safety professionals are ready to take on that type of role.

Regina McMichael stated in a Canadian Occupational Health and Safety magazine (COS) article: “Safety professionals also don’t act like leaders. Part of the reason for this is because no one has taught them how.”

She is right, the current emphasis for most safety professionals is on compliance. They are the watch dogs of the safety system. When the watch dogs are not present the safety compliance does not happen and the safety program falters.

Many years ago, I created the Safety Accountability System (SAS) and the safety scorecard. This challenged the traditional theory of safety, which was if you comply with the Occupational Health and Safety Act laws you have better success at prevention. The whole philosophy behind the SAS is compliance is an outcome, not an objective. This is a subtle difference, but it is so important, and it must be repeated: compliance is an outcome, not an objective of the safety program.

Compliance rarely motives individuals or organizations for long. The theory is, only concrete activities that are measured breed health and safety accountability and sustainability. It is this measurement of safety activities that tie into the organization’s business strategy that makes the health and safety professional a greater asset to the executive role.

If safety professionals want to start being accepted at the executive table, they have to start thinking and acting like an executive leader, not a compliance-based safety officer.

The best way to do that is to implement a sustainable and measurable safety system that frees the safety professional from being the compliance watch dog to becoming a safety leader at the executive table.

Discussion questions:

Research some of the safety companies in Canada. Identify what has made them the safety companies in Canada?

Why is it becoming more important for businesses to have a safety professional at the executive table? Here is a link to get your research started.