I worked for a large corporation in safety for 27 years. When I was selected to move into safety from engineering, I did not interview with a warehouse or a chemical processing unit. It was people.
As I advanced in my career so I could educate my children and build a retirement for my wife and me, I did not set performance goals, nor was my performance judged or salary and benefit increases granted by warehouses. It was by people.
I don't know what Mitt Romney meant by his Corporations are People comment but that is what I would have meant had I said that.
What is the implication for safety professionals? Our profession and our professional organizations would not have achieved the critical mass that we have, albeit relatively small compared to other professions, without the leadership people of corporations and segments of corporations deciding to put us on staff, pay our salaries and benefits and fund membership in our professional organizations and our continuing education.
Why do they hire us? A variety of reasons — probably some good and some not. But for us to function effectively as professionals , we should presume the most positive reason. The corporate leadership people hire us because they want the opportunity to be influenced, resourced and supported in safety by staff (or consultants) who understand what and who they are and what working in a corporation means. A corporation — any organization — is complex. We have to understand those complexities and work them. Consultants are hired for similar reasons.
Our job as safety professionals is to assess where the leadership personnel are, prioritize the safety improvements needed and the people who need to be influenced to accomplish those improvements--put our influence skills to work and get after it, one person at a time. Will they listen to us? Not all of the time? But if they always did it right and it was always easy to move them, they would not need us.