In today’s business world, and as we approach the turn of the century, companies are re-examining and re-adjusting their workplace strategies to attain more streamlined and efficient organizations. This "downsizing" ("re-engineering" or "rightsizing") is often looked upon with contempt, or at least with great apprehension, by management and employees alike. However, safety people should look at these new changes as beneficial to their profession.

Along with downsizing comes more employee empowerment. This is a tremendous opportunity for safety personnel to encourage greater management and employee safety consciousness.

Too many layers

Today, many safety people complain that they do not get enough meaningful management support. Safety, they feel, is often given "lip service" only. Many mid-level managers do not inform top management of the real safety issues and problems, such as failing to identify all recognized hazards as required by OSHA and neglecting to make management aware of all the accidents and near-miss accidents that occur in the workplace.

Since downsizing results in fewer mid-level management positions, as well as fewer personnel in general, employees at all levels are given additional responsibilities and greater control of their work environments. Management should take this opportunity to encourage all employees, supervisors and managers to actively participate in the safety program by encouraging their safety consciousness.

An integrated approach

Workers know best the hazards of their jobs. These employees, working along with their supervisors and safety professionals, can together work to make the company safety program more effective. They know first-hand how safety impacts on the well-being of themselves and their fellow workers, as well as on the quality of their work and, ultimately, on their morale. Safety becomes an all-important way of life.

New job descriptions

This new, heightened awareness of greater responsibilities for employees and managers can only result in a safer, more efficient organization. Top management, the safety person, and the employees become directly involved in the safety program, making safety a priority issue. This would include a written description of all safety responsibilities for everyone in the organization from the CEO to the new, entry-level employee. These responsibilities then become part of the employee’s performance criteria.

At this point, safety becomes equally important with quality, production, profits and all other company priorities. Safety people should take advantage of this situation by preparing a safety action plan to present to top management on how to gain the greatest safety rewards from company downsizing.

Ray and Rosemary Colvin are owners of Safety Training Dynamics, Inc., PO Box 8002, The Woodlands, Texas, 77380; (713) 298-SAFE.