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Be a Safety Zombie – Or make a change to survive

October 13, 2013


If you still believe the role of a safety practitioner is all about setting up management systems, conducting training and monitoring compliance etc. think again.   No longer can safety practitioners fall back on regulations or industry norms as justification for their present roles.

Organisations around the world cannot always afford to pay for standalone specialism.  If safety people want to continue to work in the long-term they must change and become business focussed or they may not survive.

Many businesses are now facing a need for  urgent change and the roles of individuals are being closely looked at.  No one wants to continue to spend money on a resource which they see as a financial drain and not adding visible or quantifiable returns on investment.

People are now expected to be multi-skilled and able to adapt to different roles.  Can we with any confidence stand up and say as Safety practitioners that we have adapted to the challenges of future change?   Or are we just walking around like zombies waiting for all to end with no future chance of resurrection?

Let’s look at things from an angle of efficiency and lean management.  If we were running a company with a small safety team of 3 or 4 people and looking at reducing cost the following might be a simple approach that many would take;

  • Appoint a single Safety Practitioner as the Corporate Advisor. (Make the remainder of the safety team redundant)
  • Have management and supervisory staff take on direct responsibility and accountability for inspections and monitoring. (Multi-Tasking)
  • Training reduced  to online and mobile phone applications (Use of Technology)

The first response by many might be “not in my industry”. Well it’s already happening in many companies, and by putting our heads in the sand will not make it disappear. So it’s time to wake up and face the truth.

So what can you do?

Now is the time to re-evaluate your skill set and decide what you want your future to be.  Take a close look at your organisation and find out what are the main drivers for efficiency and profitability.  If you don’t know the basics, you can’t plan for your own survival. You need to evaluate and adapt by;

  • Mapping out your own strengths and weaknesses and develop a personal improvement plan.
  • Identifying key areas that you can assimilate and start to develop the appropriate skills and knowledge.
  • Building an internal and external network and let people know what you can contribute to a business besides safety knowledge.

There are many other things that need to be done to survive in today’s commercial world.  Hopefully the above has given you some food for thought and will help you combat any future challenges you may encounter in your career.   


So remember; Evaluate, Adapt and Survive.


About the Author:  Wayne J Harris

Wayne is a highly regarded international specialist in developing corporate risk and HSE management systems.  He has advised major organisations both private and governmental, on key issues of strategy and organisational risk and safety management for over 30 years.

Experience gained in dealing within the international arena and multiple cultures from Europe, Asia-Pacific, to the Middle East has given him a comprehensive understanding of the global risk issues facing an organisation in today’s business economy. He has held various senior corporate roles, and has sat on the Board of Directors of several companies including a Chamber of Commerce. He is also the Chairman of ISQEM, and a Director of the World Safety Organization (WSO) UN-NGO.




  1. Daryl Buck permalink

    Great piece which will fall on deaf ears I’m afraid. They don’t like it much when you start calling Spades Shovels. Impressed enough to convince me to join at my Corporate Level Thanks, Daryl Buck, NCSO

    Date: Sun, 13 Oct 2013 07:13:14 +0000 To:

    • Mr. Allen permalink

      I disagree. That’s like saying for any company you only need 1 HR person, or one salesman; since 1 person knows how to multitask in that area. What about the amount of work that is required for the position? Just because you have more than one, does not mean the others are nonessential.

  2. Kevin Lowney permalink

    As far as front line supervison goes they are all about production, yes they do the paper work but are they doing safety. It only takes one death and then where is all your profits gone that you thought you could save by letting front line do the Safety. Major companies see this and that is why they employ Safety Professionals, they need eyes in the field that are not looking at how fast the building is going up,but how safe it is going up. When ever you put safety behind production its trouble waiting to happen.

  3. Darby Allan permalink


    This is so very true. Large safety teams often allow line managers to transfer responsibility to the safety team. Safety must be a line management function.
    Work is all about being multi hatted and able to do, support, mentor and contribute to the bottom line is needed. Too many practitioners lack basic management skills.

  4. Paul permalink

    II disagree. It is only small companies that have no regard to safety. Professional organizations have professional safety leadership and always will. This blog might just reflect the writers experience.

  5. Ed McAllister permalink

    I like the article and agree with the overall message. Yes, there are industries where the very nature of the business will determine a highly specialised Safety Team. Adversely there are many businesses, similar to the example given, who, driven by overheads and profit margins, will indeed look towards a lean, six sigma, standard workplace, ……….. the Safety Practitioner will be expected to embrace this culture, and adapt as described. It is not a matter of offering / providing a reduced service, it is about targetting key areas with the correct methodology, within the constrictions of an evolving business.

  6. Danielle permalink

    I disagree, The poor General Foreman/ supervisor that is now required to maintain all the tasks of a safety professional and then perform their own duties to produce. Something will always fall off the plate.
    This is currently being done at a site in Alberta , and they can not seem to keep workers , because of the disorganization. It is unsafe. You can not reduce essential staff and load up other staff to do all the work –
    The organization will fail- by rising costs of wcb etc or lack of production

  7. I agree that multi- tasking and multi-discipline pro – active staff are the way forward both profitably and practically for business today.

  8. Thanks for the comments everyone. It very much a split camp on the responses. But if we look at it from a different angle.

    If we are saying that good companies will always need safety people its a contradiction to what a good safety culture is all about, which is management and supervisors taking responsibility and accountability.

  9. Bob Gordon permalink

    Great article safety and production must be in balance for us all to succeed and for everyone to go home safe at the end of every day.

  10. Rick Lewis permalink

    Having gone down this route, I know its happening in many companies. So good advice that we should all follow.

  11. Kenny Abrehart permalink

    I agree that company employees should be able to multi task but to what degree. My company have front line staff including working supervisors(?) who are not only responsible for production but also quality, workforce management, documentation AND safety. Which one do you think falls by the wayside? Most employees generally work safely because they have a family to feed or have other responsibilities away from work and obviously do not want to get hurt but the pressure of work, being leaner, making bigger profits with less resource etc means short cuts will take place. Someone needs to be there to make sure that procedures are being followed and the correct and proper supervision is in place. Only my opinion mind!

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  1. Be a Safety Zombie – Or make a change to survive - Health and Safety Risk
  2. Be a Safety Zombie – Or make a change to survive | ISQEM | UP Equip

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