July 14, 2009 | Mark Paradies

Is Your Management Serious About Safety?

Lots of senior managers talk a good game when it comes to safety.

They say:

  • Safety is our number one priority
  • We will never do anything to compromise safety
  • We won’t take our eye off the prize – everyone going home safe at the end of the day
  • Safety is a condition of employment
  • Safety first

But what is the real message they send?

I was at an industry conference last month, and the CEO of a major construction company was talking about how safety was their first priority. It was a good talk.

The bad part was that I had some “behind-the-scenes” information.

I knew a safety manager from the company’s corporate headquarters. The week before, he told me that he couldn’t make it to the Summit this year. He knew it was a great way to pick up new safety improvement ideas, and people from his company had attended in the past and brought very valuable ideas back to their company, but they had just instituted a corporate ban on travel to all conferences and training.

So what was their REAL top priority?

I thought I would go up and ask the CEO. Why did he talk a good game but cancel travel for an important safety-related meeting?

But that would have been too embarrassing. After all, he was in front of a crowd of well-wishers that had gathered to shake his hand after a “great” speech about the preeminence of safety.

He could have said:

  • “I didn’t know.”
  • “I’ll look into it.”
  • “We all have to make sacrifices in tough times.”

But I doubt that he would have said:

  • “Short-term profits and quarterly results are more important than safety.”

But that’s the message that he just communicated inside the company.

Is your management SERIOUS about safety?

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