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A seat at the table

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown C-suite leaders the value of safety professionals

Photo: mixetto/iStockphoto

Maintaining safety’s voice

A recent trip to her mailbox revealed to McMichael just how much the COVID-19 pandemic has made society aware of safety. A discount retailer’s flyer was advertising hand sanitizer, wipes and masks under the words, “HEALTH AND SAFETY DEALS.”

McMichael was “so excited” that she took a picture of the flyer.

“Those just aren’t our words anymore,” she said. “Everybody says, ‘Stay safe.’”

The challenge now for safety pros is to remain front and center with C-suite executives and the general public.

Photo: RichLegg/iStockphoto

Just as an advertisement and a neighbor wishing you well both mention health and safety, the public is more aware of professionals whose focus is keeping others safe.

“As a profession outside of the C-suite, we’ve got a presence that we’ve never had before, except after huge tragedies, which COVID is,” McMichael said. “We’ve got to hold on tight to that, not let it go and maintain it going forward.”

Maintaining that presence in the C-suite must be the goal, as well.

“I hope they see us beyond compliance,” McMichael said. “That’s not the case everywhere. I hope they see the safety professionals’ relationship with the workforce and with the business side of the house merging with that humanity.”

That reality will take some work, however. McMichael said meeting C-suite executives in their arena is a must. That could mean safety pros finding a business mentor and building connections with executives.

“What we bring to the table is not just managing stickers on the floor,” she said. “Everything we do is about the business.”

Ciatto said speaking the same language as those in the C-suite is important for the profession. In training, for example, each group or department benefits from sessions tailored to its role.

“That should include your C-suite, because they’re going to see it a little differently,” she said. “You have to be able to get them to understand if you’re more proactive here, it’s actually a benefit to your customer. It’s a benefit to your sales. It’s a benefit to your employees.

“In the end, there’s a better profit margin, but, first and foremost, it’s a better culture. Your employees want to stay, your subcontractors want to always work with you. There’s growth for everyone involved.”

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