futureThe safety job has matured, and will continue to do so – that was one of the takeaways from last week’s National Safety Congress & Expo, sponsored by the National Safety Council.

You can measure safety’s maturity a number of ways. What your execs should understand, if they don’t already, is the days of “a glove is a glove,” “glasses are glasses,” training videos come “canned” from off the shelf, and safety programs… well, if you seen one you’ve seen them all – those days are gone.

Advances in the materials used in just about every type of PPE require a more educated buyer when it comes to making selections. More and more training is not “canned” but customized to specific sites. Leading and lagging safety performance indicators are also customized to be site-specific. Wireless gas detector networks generate volumes of data to be analyzed. Safety apps are raining down on safety departments with absolutely no end in sight.

When you purchase a safety product now, check out the services that are offered with it. PPE vendors are big on education and consultative selling, knowing how overworked many safety managers are today. Some are creating portals where, for a subscription fee or some other form of pricing, you can download training materials, safety meeting materials, checklist, tip sheets, and more. Yes, all this “value added” from PPE makers.

Safety was surely not well-served by being perceived as a commodity, low on the totem pole, cheap, with easily interchangeable parts and canned programming. But that’s how many execs, lacking any kind of safety education, devalued safety programs.

Now execs are presented with a dashboard of safety performance metrics and are asked to articulate the company’s culture as it relates to employee safety. Tell us about the culture’s values, beliefs, norms and vision as they relate to safety.

Exec: “Er… you want me to talk about our safety norms? What exactly are norms?”

Safety pro: “Do you have time for a coaching session?”

Like marketers of safety products, do all you can to remove safety from the commodity box. That box is far too confining.