Many organizations use collateral duty safety representatives. Furthermore, as more organizations downsize they may switch from full-time safety personnel to collateral duty safety representatives. The key to making this decision successfully is to implement a logical process to select, train, and support those appointed. This essay will look at the best way to do just that.
The decision to use collateral duty safety representatives alone or to supplement a full-time staff should be based on the best way to conduct a safety program. The decision should include cost, professional standards, and return on investment. The author’s experience is that collateral safety representatives are being used and many are not properly selected, trained, or supported. If their use increases this trend will continue or perhaps increase.
The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 gives the requirement to prevent needless accidents and injuries in the workplace. Section 5 (a) (1) says that “each employer shall furnish to each employee employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees” (OSHA, 1970). Section 19 of the Act says that federal agency heads will implement a safety and health program. This act does not apply to state or municipal governments. However, nearly every state has its own standard covering public employees. This means that public organizations must prevent accidents by recognizing and eliminating hazards in the workplace. How the program is staffed is not as important as its effectiveness in preventing accidents.
The public manager and his or her human resources manager must identify resource needs and justify them in the budget processes. The following ratios will aid in the budget decision making process and are based on the author’s experience. Collateral duty safety representatives should be used at a ratio of one collateral safety representative for every five hundred employees. This assumes 8 hours a week on safety duties. With employees that work three shifts the collateral duty safety representative ratio should be one per shift instead of the number of employees. If full-time safety personnel are used the ratio should be one for every 3, 500 employees. If a mixture of collateral and full-time safety personnel are used the ratio should be a full-time safety person at the headquarters level with collateral duty safety representatives assigned at a ratio of one collateral safety representative for every 1,000 employees at the plant or operational level (Fanning, 2003).
The safety budget must include the salaries of the collateral and full-time safety personnel. The time collateral personnel at the operational level spend on safety is time they are not doing their primary job of production or service. This cost should be equal to or less than the amount management budgeted. This cost is often overlooked. In addition to the salaries management should budget $0.24 per employee per month to purchase promotional items, safety awards, standards, regulations, and awareness material. Awareness material includes posters, flyers, stickers, pins, and banners for specific hazards in the workplace.
If management has decided to use collateral duty safety representatives the first step is to select the right person. Collateral duty safety representatives used alone or to support a full time staff are spread throughout the organization and focus on providing services to their particular section. If the second duty assigned is related to safety such as engineering, environmental protection, facility management, or nursing the duties complement each other. The normal safety duties are in a pamphlet published by the American Society of Safety Engineers (Scope and Functions, 1996.
When collateral duty safety representatives are appointed they are seldom told what their new duties are or where to get assistance. There are a number of books on the market that can help. One source of assistance is the Career Guide to the Safety Professional published jointly by the Board of Certified Safety Professionals and the American Society of Safety Engineers. The guide outlines the knowledge of a safety person on pages three and four (Career Guide, 2002), see table 2. If possible management should select a person with the knowledge areas outlined in table 2. If the organization does not have someone with these knowledge areas they should select a person who is capable of learning them.
Management must provide training that the collateral duty safety representative needs. To do this management must be familiar with the collateral duty safety representative’s duties, the functions of the organizational safety program, and how to assist the collateral duty safety representative in determining the training and skills they possess. Training may be provided through local colleges, OSHA approved regional training centers, or private companies. Each knowledge area in table 2 can be learned in a single class or several may be learned simultaneously in a single course. At table 3 is an excerpt from the OSHA training catalog. This serves as an outline of the courses that exist to prepare personnel.
After the individual is selected and trained management must support them. Ray Boylston says that “managing safety and health programs is one of management’s most important responsibilities” (Boylston, 1990). First the manager meets with the collateral duty safety representative and his or her supervisor. The manager tells them where management thinks the safety program should go, how much time should be spent on safety duties, the reporting chain for safety issues, the duties of the position, and how those duties will be measured for performance evaluations. Management should supplement the individual’s job description in writing with the safety duties.
Management must give the collateral duty safety representative access to senior managers. The senior manager must sign a policy memorandum and make sure that other managers and supervisors buy-in to the program. Ray Boylston also says that “the ranking manager must set the proper example by his or her actions and must demand a similar commitment from the entire line organization” (Boylston, 1990). If the program belongs to the collateral duty safety representative it is doomed to fail. They cannot do it on their own, management must do their part.
Many public organizations use collateral duty safety representatives. With today’s fiscal realities many organizations may need to cut full-time personnel and use collateral duty representatives. After making this decision management should implement a logical process to select, train, and support the person appointed. If these three areas are given proper attention the safety program can prevent needless accidents and the cost associated with them. If you use collateral duty safety representatives in your organization do you use a logical process to select, train, and support them?
– Boylston, Ray, Managing Safety and Health Programs, Van Nostrand and Reinhold, 1990.
– Career Guide to the Safety Profession, Board of Certified Safety Professionals and the American Society of Safety Engineers, 2000.
– Fanning, Fred, Basic Safety Administration: A Handbook for the New Safety Specialist, American Society of Safety Engineers, 1993.
– Occupational Safety and Health Act, Public Law 91-596, U.S. Government Printing Office 1970.
– OSHA Training Institute Course Catalog webs site. Retrieved on December 2, 2004 from http://www.osha.gov/fso/ote/training/oti_catalog.html.
– Scope and Functions of the Professional Safety Position, American Society of Safety Engineers, 1996, Form SF-10/M-M-2/96.