Navigating the Corporate Ladder: Managing Up as a Safety Manager in Australia

managing up as a safety manger

For many safety managers, it’s not the day-to-day operations that pose the biggest challenge. It’s navigating the intricate world of corporate hierarchies and ensuring the executives, those holding the purse strings, understand the importance of workplace safety. In an era where profit margins and productivity often dominate boardroom discussions, it’s vital for safety managers to “manage up” and champion the critical message of workplace safety.

Let’s not mince words: for any corporate leader who’s ever seen safety as a mere box to tick off or an inconvenient cost, it’s time to recalibrate that mindset. And for every safety manager striving to make their voice heard, here are some strategies to elevate the safety discourse within your organisation.

1. Speak their Language: Money Talks

Like it or not, executives are driven by figures. Start by equipping yourself with the economic statistics that show the cost of workplace accidents and injuries. In Australia, the direct cost of work-related injuries and diseases is estimated to be over $60 billion annually. That’s not pocket change.

Now, translate these figures into the company’s financial language. What would a major safety incident cost the company in terms of workers’ compensation, downtime, legal fees, and reputation damage? Demonstrating the ROI (Return on Investment) of proactive safety measures can be the most compelling argument you present.

2. Leverage Peer Pressure: Industry Comparisons

No company wants to lag behind its competitors. Conduct a benchmarking exercise and highlight where the organisation stands in comparison to industry peers in terms of safety performance. If you’re behind the curve, this can act as a wakeup call. If you’re ahead, it’s an opportunity to press for even more resources to remain an industry leader.

3. Humanise the Narrative: Stories Over Statistics

Numbers may resonate with the C-suite, but stories resonate with everyone. Share accounts of real people affected by workplace accidents. Make them see the human side of every statistic. And if you can, bring in workers or their families to share their first-hand experiences. Nothing reinforces the importance of safety like a personal story.

4. Forge Alliances: Find Safety Champions

Not all executives may be indifferent to safety concerns. Identify those who are more receptive to your message and nurture that relationship. Having an ally in the upper echelons can amplify your voice and provide the backing you need during critical discussions.

5. Educate Proactively: Make Safety a Continuous Conversation

Don’t wait for quarterly reviews to discuss safety. Hold regular training sessions, workshops, and seminars. Invite executives to participate and even lead some sessions. The more they’re involved, the more they’ll understand the intricacies and importance of safety protocols.

6. Challenge the Status Quo: Be Unapologetically Bold

Sometimes, being subtle doesn’t cut it. Be prepared to challenge outdated views or practices that compromise safety. This doesn’t mean being confrontational, but it does mean standing firm in your convictions and presenting your case with evidence.

7. Celebrate the Wins: Highlight Positive Outcomes

Whenever there’s a decline in workplace incidents or a successful implementation of a new safety protocol, celebrate it. Make sure these successes are as prominent in corporate communications as sales victories or financial milestones.

In Conclusion

Managing up as a safety manager is not just about navigating office politics; it’s about ensuring the wellbeing of every single person who walks through the company’s doors. Safety managers play a pivotal role in shifting corporate perspectives and fostering a culture where safety isn’t just a department, but an ethos.

To every safety manager reading this: your role is indispensable. It’s challenging, often thankless, but undeniably crucial. And if there’s one thing executives should appreciate more than profit margins, it’s the dedicated professionals who keep their workforce safe.

Remember, when it comes to workplace safety, there’s no room for compromise. It’s time to challenge, educate, and elevate the discourse. And in this mission, know that you’re not alone. Safe workplaces are better workplaces.

If you would like to know more or would like our assistance in the areas mentioned check us out at Alternately, call us on 1300 990 336 or email us at [email protected]

author avatar
Brendan Day Chief Executive Officer
Brendan Day, based in Sydney, is a WHS and Emergency Management expert with a rich background in emergency services, including significant experience as a military firefighter, emergency responder, and emergency response manager. His career spans across both public and private sector roles, where he has developed and implemented comprehensive WHS management and Emergency Management systems. As the CEO and Principle Trainer at Intrinsic Safety, Brendan combines his military discipline with modern safety practices, offering advanced training in workplace health, fire safety, confined spaces, height safety and first aid. His qualifications, including a Diploma of Work Health and Safety, reflect his commitment to safety excellence and continuous improvement in emergency response management and safety practices.
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