Tuesday, October 24, 2006

2006 National Safety Survey: Safety's Satisfying Journey

The intrinsic benefits of being in the ergonomics and safety business ...

"Safety jobs don't make you rich – unless you are talking about the benefits that can't be put in a paycheck.

If our interviews with some of the respondents to this year's National Safety Survey are any indication, there's more truth than ever to the idea that safety is a journey, not a destination. For some, the journey is just starting – a new safety program or a new employer. For others further along the road, the challenge is to upgrade a program, to introduce new ideas, to change what "we've always done" to what they should be doing. And for a lucky few who find themselves in flourishing safety cultures, the gratification they get from working in such a positive environment is tempered with the knowledge that the journey is never finished, but rather requires hard work and a continuing willingness to make the small incremental improvements that signal a dedication to world-class safety.

While less than 5 percent of our respondents say they have "world-class" safety programs, that hardly prevents safety managers from feeling good about their work. Some 70 percent say they find their jobs highly satisfying, a fact most attribute to the feeling they can make a positive difference in people's lives. That's not to say they don't express their share of frustrations – employees who don't follow safety rules, supervisors who don't actively promote safety, too little help and too many duties. But if safety work has its share of pitfalls, it's also clear that the work along the way is rich with intrinsic rewards.

Gary Wolf's safety journey began in July 1990 with the infamous explosion at Arco Chemical's Channelview, Texas, plant that killed 17 people. Wolf headed up a team that conducted a thorough process hazard analysis at the facility. When he finished and was preparing to go back to his normal duties, the corporate safety director's job had opened up and Wolf asked to be considered for the position. The company wanted to make a significant change in its culture and he had experience in leading such efforts, plus a desire to move into a more people-oriented role. Wolf got the job, a change this veteran engineer calls "the most significant thing I've done in my career."    (Continued via Occupational Hazards)    [Ergonomics Resources]

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