¿ The boardroom door opens unexpectedly and whacks the board secretary in the head, requiring several undignified stitches in the head of a very dignified lady

¿The entire board suffers the humiliation and unpleasantness of having their stomachs pumped after eating some of the cafeteria's special tuna salad for lunch

¿The ninety-four year old chairman trips on a projector extension cord and bruises his anatomy as well as the fledgling career of the IT person who put the cord where the chairman intended to walk.

Accidents can happen in the boardroom just as they can on the shop floor, and it's probably a pretty good idea to practice safety in the boardroom. For the safety professional, it's probably a pretty savvy career move to take care of the brain trust. That isn't, however, the focus of this presentation!

The future of the organization's safety performance, and the future of the safety profession, lies in developing an effective presence for the safety discipline in the boardroom. Safety must become an integral part of the organization's decision-making at the highest possible levels. Otherwise, the safety discipline is left to the frustrating and reactive position of dealing with the consequences of business decisions made with little or no regard for the risks they create.

The Need

Why is "Safety in the Boardroom" such a critical issue?

First, because the traditional approach, treating safety and risk issues as something apart from business decisions, simply hasn't worked as effectively as we would like. Great strides have been made in providing safer and healthier workplaces as well as meeting regulatory requirements and community expectations. However, most organizations experience, at some time, frustration with stagnant safety performance, serious accidents and near-misses that surprise, and employee perceptions of undue risk. While there is no safety management system or tool that can enable sustained perfection, moving safety into the corporate decision-making process provides the most proactive opportunity to avoid this frustration.

Let's explore some of the characteristics of the traditional treatment of safety and the resulting undesired consequences.

¿ Safety has often been ignored in the budgeting process. This doesn't mean that safety hasn't been resourced, but that the resources dedicated to safety have not necessarily been commensurate with the risks to be managed. Often business decisions have been made that create safety risks, but without an honest assessment of those risks and the resources required to address them. As a result, safety has been put in the position of either having to utilize inadequate resources (resulting in an ineffective level of control) or spend significant energy arguing for additional resources after-the-fact.

¿ In many organizations, safety has had no real power base. The safety function may report through human resources, legal, risk and insurance, engineering, etc., and any of these avenues may be perfectly appropriate provided it is a seat of power in the organization. Most often, though, they are not.

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