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What Does a Safety Manager Do? Our Full Guide to Excel in Your Career

  • Publish Date: Posted 3 months ago
  • Author: Kelly O'Neill

In our current market where safety managers face tougher competition for jobs than ever, having the right resources including a reputable recruiter, a compelling resume, and a confident strategy is not just advantageous—it's imperative. Without these tools, you could end up in a never-ending cycle of ineffective job hunting.

Last year, private industry employers reported 2.8 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses, up  7.5% from 2021, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This alarming trend signals loud and clear that the growing need for qualified safety managers is here to stay.

As a safety manager in industrial settings, particularly in the power generation and renewable sectors, you actively face a host of challenges: navigating complicated environments, ensuring detailed safety compliance, and leading with empathy. While these challenges may appear daunting, your role as a Safety Manager places you in a unique position to create a significant impact.

Without a safety manager, or with an ineffective one, the consequences can be severe. In their absence, industrial environments, in high-risk sectors like power and renewables, become vulnerable to a range of hazards. These include increased risk of accidents, non-compliance with safety regulations, potential legal liabilities, and even harm to employees' health and well-being. Moreover, poor safety management can lead to financial losses due to accidents, litigation, and damage to equipment.

Poor safety management also affects morale and productivity. Employees who feel unsafe are less likely to perform at their best, and a lack of trust in safety protocols can lead to heightened stress and dissatisfaction.

What Does a Safety Manager Do?

In your role as a safety manager for a utility-scale wind farm, solar, or oil & gas project, your primary focus is on protecting lives and the environment. No small task. Your expertise is critical in maintaining safety standards and managing risks effectively.

When it comes to a Safety Manager's role in an energy project, the responsibilities are as diverse as they crucial. For example, you might find yourself doing the any of the following on a daily basis:

  • Conducting new employee project orientation and safety training

  • Attending subcontractor preconstruction meetings

  • Reviewing Job Hazard Analyses and planning for safety issues

  • Leading safety and environmental incident investigations

  • Evaluating contractor operational practices for safety compliance

  • Ensuring compliance with regulatory permits and conditions

Why Safety Managers Are Indispensable

When operating in high-risk sectors, a Safety Manager's role extends beyond the prevention of workplace accidents. For example, safety managers must account for risk management that includes identifying potential hazards, implementing proactive safety measures, and ensuring compliance with all relevant health and safety regulations.

There's a complex balance that needs to be maintained between safety, operational efficiency, and budget constraints. As a Safety Manager, it's your role to master this balance. You're tasked with ensuring the highest safety standards without compromising the smooth running of operations or straining financial resources. To be successful navigating this balance, you need a deep understanding of both the practical aspects of safety and the economic realities of the business including organizational goals, finances, and restrictions. 

Culture & Values

A safety manager's role goes beyond ticking boxes; it's about inculcating a culture of safety within the organization. Employees should not only be aware of the safety protocols but should also be proactive in reporting or rectifying unsafe conditions.

It's crucial that employees are not only well-versed in safety protocols but also actively engaged in maintaining a safe working environment. All employees, not just the safety manager, must prioritize maintaining safe working environments at all times. For more info on how to practice personal safety at your workplace, check out our full blog.

Legal Implications

In a heavily regulated industry like energy, failure to comply with safety norms can lead to crippling legal consequences. A competent Safety Manager ensures that the organization meets all statutory and legal requirements, reducing the likelihood of lawsuits and the associated financial and reputational risks.

Power generation, renewable energy, oil and gas, and engineering and design are all subject to strict regulations and compliance requirements. Failure to adhere to these safety standards may result in severe legal repercussions, significant fines, and even lawsuits. 

A proficient Safety Manager plays a critical role in ensuring that the organization adheres to all statutory and legal requirements, thereby minimizing the risk of legal issues and safeguarding the company's financial and reputational standing.

To stay on top of these requirements, a Safety Manager can employ several strategies:

  • Regular Training and Education: Enroll in ongoing professional development courses and attend industry seminars. This keeps you updated on the latest regulations and best practices in the energy sector.

  • Networking with Peers: Join professional associations and online forums where you can share insights and learn from the experiences of other safety professionals in your field. Groups of all sizes and structures exist, so do some research on what works best for you and your particular role and responsibilities. For starters, we recommend the National Safety Council.

  • Implementing Compliance Systems: Utilize software and other tools to track compliance metrics. These systems can help in monitoring adherence to safety norms and alert you to potential areas of non-compliance. Again, there are several safety compliance software options available, so investigate your options and select one that best serves your organizations. Arguably the most important aspect to consider when selecting compliance software is whether or not your current workforce will use the tool. It can be the best, most robust software out there, but if staff adoption is low, you’ve just wasted time, effort, and money. 

Transitioning into Your New Role: General Tips

To successfully transition into a safety manager role, you've got to know what the job truly entails. This section gets right to the point, outlining the key skills and practices you need to master. We’re here to guide you through this process, ensuring you’re ready to take on this critical role.

A Safety Manager Must Understand the Company's Ecosystem

Familiarize yourself with how the company functions, from its mission and values to its organizational structure. From day one, safety managers should review all company documentation and resources. This is your time to soak everything up, like a sponge. Start by reading through the company’s foundational documents such as the mission statement, value propositions, and strategic plans. Then, look at annual reports, internal newsletters, and other publications that offer insights into the company’s goals, achievements, and challenges.

From there, your coworkers comprise your next best resource. Schedule meetings or informal discussions with various department heads and team leaders to understand their roles and how their departments contribute to the company's overall objectives.

Meet Regulatory Bodies

An early interaction with regulatory bodies like OSHA, EPA, and other local regulators helps set the tone for a smooth relationship going forward. Proactively reach out to these regulatory bodies for an introductory meeting. This initial interaction can be a formal meeting or a casual introduction, depending on the norms of your industry and region. 

With this meeting in place, you can establish critical relationships with professionals from regulating bodies. Discuss the specific regulations and standards that apply to your organization. Ask questions to clarify any ambiguities and understand their expectations in detail.

How to Excel as a Safety Manager: The Essentials

Excellence as a safety manager comes down to three things: expertise, foresight, and leadership. Our team understands and guides you through each of these, giving you straightforward advice on how to excel in every aspect of your role

Comprehensive Safety Training

Invest time and resources into developing a robust safety training program. It's not just about ensuring compliance; it's about creating a 'safety-first' mindset among employees. Explore OSHA’s recommendations for how to implement an internal safety training program here.

Root Cause Analysis and Incident Investigation

The aftermath of any safety incident needs to be handled with a level of scrutiny that digs beyond the surface. Learning from each incident will equip you to anticipate and prevent future occurrences.

Enroll in specialized training programs that focus on incident investigation techniques. These programs often cover topics like root cause analysis, evidence collection, and interviewing witnesses

Compliance Is a Safety Manager's Mantra

Work closely with your compliance team to ensure that all safety and environmental regulations are followed. This involves securing all required permits for your operations and ensuring that reports are submitted to regulatory bodies like OSHA and EPA on schedule. It's essential to stay proactive about these submissions to avoid any compliance issues. Your focus should be on detailed and accurate reporting, alongside maintaining current permits to ensure seamless operations and adherence to legal requirements.

Job Hazard Analysis

Before any project, assess the risks associated with different jobs, especially tasks that require High Voltage safety experience. Your role will be to either eliminate these risks or reduce them to acceptable levels.

Find Your Next Safety Manager Role with Per Se

Being a Safety Manager in the energy sector is a noble but challenging role. It demands a multifaceted approach that combines technical acumen with people skills and a deep understanding of legal and regulatory landscapes. Your job will often be thankless, conducted behind the scenes, but it is indispensable.

It might not always win you popularity contests, especially when you have to enforce protocols that are seen as cumbersome. But remember, your role is often the thin line between a regular day at work and an emergency situation. Every employee deserves to return home at the end of each day.

If you're committed to excelling in this dynamic role and want to align yourself with the right opportunities, join our network to get matched with relevant jobs in your sector.