Safety professionals are really all consultants. Whether our clients are internal or external, the same approach and tool kit will work. This means that rather than employing a management technique of direct control, safety professionals should apply the principles of project management and consulting when working with clients. This substantially shifts the roles and puts safety into a consultative role, rather than the impossible position of responsibility for results without the authority.

There is always a client (or key stakeholders), which for most internal safety professionals is usually a senior manager or group of managers. For external consultants, clients can vary widely - throughout many levels of the organization. Regardless of who the client is, however, the safety professional needs a set of tools and techniques in order to successfully communicate results and manage projects.

Project management (PM) uses many of the same skills as a focused consulting contract - a very useful tool that is widely used by loss control professionals and other consultants. The ability to organize and lead projects effectively is of vital importance to the organization, as good project managers can substantially increase organizational return-on-investment (ROI) by reducing time, increasing efficiency and effective communicating with project stakeholders.

Enhanced communication and managing expectations and timelines are additional payoffs for using these tools. This results in better working relationships, fewer surprises and mutually agreed-upon outcomes.

Project Management Overview

The Project Management Institute describes a project as "a temporary endeavor undertaken tocreate a unique product or service." Typically a project will have a beginning and an end; and meet pre-established goals for cost, schedule and quality. Whereas we think of a process as more ongoing in nature: for example, a business process is a set of linked activities that create value by transforming an input into a more valuable output.

An example of a project would be designing a new Hazard Communication Course, while a process would be the ongoing delivery of the course. Another project example is to design a new management system using the new ANSI Z-10 standard, which could also overlap with the process of implementing and updating the system. A final example of a project would be to purchase and install a new OSHA Recordkeeping and Training Tracking software system, while the ongoing data entry and analysis would be considered a work process.

Some other project considerations include:

  • The work/task/project may not have been done in the organization before

  • Expectations and outcomes may not be well-defined

  • There could be a limited timeline or limited resources

  • Managing projects is a complex science, not within the realm of everyday operations

  • Project constraints are not always communicated clearly

  • Established standards, tools and approaches have been successfully applied on many other projects

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