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Where Should Safety Report Within An Organization?

Posted by Weber, CSP, Dave at Saturday, 12/29/2012 8:41 pm
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3.2 from 65 votes
Recently I sent a survey out to hundreds of safety professionals asking "Where is the best place within an organization for the safety function to report?". Over 80% of the responses fit into one of the below two categories. Here are some typical responses.

•When I first started out I reported to the HR director, but this lasted for only a few weeks as they really didn't understand my job. Today I report to the owner and president of the company and can get more done then before. I believe the safety officer, manager or coordinator should report to the highest officer of the company, or the owner. JOE
•In general you want to be reporting as high up the ladder as possible. I reported to HR for 8 years but it didn't work all that well. HR and I did not share the same priorities. Another problem was that HR didn't understand the science of health and safety and lacked an appreciation of the high degree of specialization that it required. I now report to University Services which has been good for our image as we are now increasingly seen as a value-added service rather than being in cahoots with big bad HR. WAYNE
•The best answer, at least in construction, is directly to the CEO -- every thing we do has the potential of affecting the bottom line by millions of dollars.
•In Marine Corps Aviation, safety is extremely important as you would expect and the safety officer reports directly to the Commanding Officer. I realize that this is hard to accomplish in large companies, but that being said, I firmly believe that if safety does not have upper management support the safety program is less effective. Of the smaller companies we work with , the most effective programs have the owners support, the owners participate in the monthly safety meetings and our site audits go directly to the owners. ROY
•I spent the first 10 years in a corporate position reporting directly to top management. Our group covered several manufacturing plants and upwards of 5,000 workers represented by 3 labor unions. Things got done and life was good. Then a realignment changed all that with our group now reporting through HR. Within weeks, everything changed for us. Our meetings, reports, presentations and other communications were either handled by or filtered by our HR guardians. Our enforcement safety rules became nothing short of gutless and shameful. Within 2 years, we had all moved on to greener pastures. Based on my experience safety professionals are ALWAYS more effective and productive when they report directly to top management. GARY


•The Human Relations (HR) Department is a terrible place for safety. Training is almost always a subset of HR. If the safety investigator works for HR and points out that training was inadequate, HR management won't let it be published that another HR function contributed to the accident. If the wrong person got hired or promoted and caused the accident, HR management won't let it get published. If supervisors/managers didn't get the training they need to understand their safety responsibilities, an HR-dominated safety function report point that out will get axed. HR is politically correct first and safety conscious a distant second. PAUL
• Safety should never report to HR. I have horror stories about HR and their politics. Safety should not be involved with politics and be able to function void of that. I have refused very good positions because it required me to report to HR. I do not know a single Safety Professional who reports to HR who is happy or very productive. I work for a Vice President and have meetings frequently with the President. Many are amazed at how much I get done when not hampered by the HR handcuffs. BRUCE
•HR is viewed by employees as being the ones who are their adversaries when contracts are negotiated. Also, HR are the ones responsible for administering employee discipline. Informing an employee that they have to report to HR is assumed to mean the employee is in trouble. Reporting to HR paints the Safety Manager with the same brush; one that sets the safety professional up as being anti-employee. If employees view safety as an adversary, they will fight you on most everything. DON
•The reason for safety reporting to Human Resources is that the OSHA law is under the Department of Labor and typically, HR addressed DOL laws and regulations. When OSHA was first passed into law, several national HR organizations addressed safety and OSHA compliance on an ongoing basis in their seminars and conferences. The EH&S organization should report to a high enough level so that resources can be made available to address EH&S issues. JOHN
•In the HR "professional" publications there is a big push to link safety and sustainability to the HR departments. HR types are attempting to leverage their worth since many normal HR functions can be outsourced or automated. PAULA
•Many, many years ago I was a site HR manager (then I got smart and moved into the S&H field!!) and agree there is considerable ignorance within that profession related to saftey. However, I think it is a symptom of the organization's SMS and safety culture if the S&H function reports into a funciton that is not on board with the mission of most S&H professionals. MICHAEL
•Some of my good friends are HR professionals and agree a successful Safety culture can be hampered under HR management. Safety reporting to a line function instead of HR usually allows Safety to be more functional. BRUCE

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