Often times managers will stress their support for employee safety and the safety system. However, as a safety professional I don’t want management support; I want the ranking manager’s commitment and involvement. There is a difference. “Support” can be as simple as a vote of confidence. “Oh yeah, I’m in favor of that!” What manager would not say he or she supports employee safety?

Commitment, on the other hand, is responsibility. It is to obligate. It is a promise to workers which requires a call to action. The manager who is committed to employee safety is actively involved in the employee safety system and not just a bystander wondering why employees keep getting injured. The litmus test of commitment is how that commitment is demonstrated-or not.

Many managers have accepted injuries as a part of doing business and have included their cost in the next budget. Such managers have entrusted the employee safety system to someone designated the safety manager, safety director or similar title. The problem here is there is usually little, if any, authority that goes along with that title.

Authority is like gasoline: if you don’t have much then you won’t get very far.

That’s how it is with most safety managers; they are given the responsibility, but no authority to take action. The suggestions or warnings of the typical safety manager often fall on deaf ears when addressing a department head because the department head answers only to the plant manager. Thus, nothing gets done unless it comes directly from the plant manager.

A manager’s job is to make sure his or her employees do their jobs right. Doing the job right means doing it right from a production, quality, cost and safety standpoint. A manager who allows an employee to circumvent safety procedures is not doing his job right. Moreover, his lack of commitment is demonstrating a lack of concern.

Since 1970, managers have been mandated by Congress to provide a safe place for employees to work. Many managers have lived up to this mandate. However, many others have not. Many managers have done just as OSHA law requires and no more, leaving employee protection in the hands of the safety manager. Worker safety and health should be managed with the same emphasis, commitment and expectations as demanded for production, quality, cost and personnel relations. A well managed safety system includes commitment and participation from top management and employee involvement. Managers should demonstrate commitment toward worker safety through active participation in the safety system.