Three Common Ways The “Safety Person” Becomes a Liability to Your Business

Are you a business owner that’s invested in a ‘safety person’ to take care of workplace safety?

While this is a well intended and common practice, most business owners are unaware that they can be creating a liability for themselves and their company.

Here are three common ways your ‘safety person’ can be creating a risk exposure for your business.



1) Making Safety Their Job

The safety person does almost everything; the inspections, orientations, safety talks, co-chairing the safety committee and more. Here are the issues:

  • What happens when the safety person is not there? Do your workers know what to do? Or does safety fall to the wayside?
  • When an incident happens, the safety person is a ghost. The regulator won’t be interested in what the safety person did. Instead, they will be laser focused on the parties responsible under the Workplace Safety and Health Act. Specifically, the employer, supervisors, workers, and possibly contractors if they were involved, and what they did, or failed to do.

Over reliance on the safety person doing all the safety enables poor performance, lack of accountability and weak safety cultures. This all creates a massive exposure for your company for which you have no protection.

2) Focusing on Paperwork & Checking Boxes

When a safety person is less experienced they tend focus on the WHAT and the HOW instead of first answering the question WHY.  Or does this make sense for our business?  They often focus on ‘getting paperwork done’ which creates little value for employees and results in pushback and ‘pencil whipping’. This not only undermines your investment in safety management, but it also creates a risk exposure for your people and your business.  In reality an experienced and confident safety professional understands that less can be more:

  • Safety requirements should be implemented in an manner that adds value to your business as a management tool. If what’s being done currently is not adding value, then ask why and adjust as necessary.
  • On average, 20% of what your company does gives rise to 80% of your credible risk; a Critical Task Inventory is a central focus of their risk management strategy.
  • They ensure that the corresponding Safe Work Procedures for all critical tasks are well developed, trained, and monitored.

Instead, paperwork and checking boxes is a by-product of implementing effective systems to control the risk of loss to your people, property, productivity and reputation.

When your safety requirements make practical sense and credible risk is the focus of their efforts, it builds credibility with your workforce, evolves your safety culture and mitigates your risk.

3) Being a Safety Cop

Many owners and safety people incorrectly think it’s the safety person’s role to enforce safety. This is one of the worse things you can do to derail safety accountability, and expose your company.  Not only does it breed resentment and hiding of unsafe acts and practices by your employees, but it also diminishes respect for your safety efforts. In addition, it removes a critical safeguard to the employer and employees; the supervisor. The legal duties of supervisors were created with the understanding that supervisors are the employer’s representative on the front lines, ensuring that the job gets done. When supervisors are trained in their responsibilities to ensure workers under their direction understand the safe way of performing work and hold them accountable to the standard, risk is drastically reduced for everyone in the workplace.

In all jurisdictions in Canada, Workplace Safety and Health legislation is built upon the premise of the Internal Responsibility System. That employers, supervisors, and workers should work cooperatively to ensure a safe and healthy workplace.

In addition, the greater the authority, the greater the responsibility. Your employees’ supervisor can be one of the most influential people in their life. The role of the safety person is to be the support to supervisors and workers and to coach them so that they can all fulfill their responsibilities.

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