- An emerging challenge is approaching as many OSH leaders enter retirement age. Senior safety professionals must create a pipeline of emerging professionals to prepare for a leadership gap.
- Organizations must develop an organized framework to transfer knowledge from seasoned leaders to early career professionals.
- Early career professionals must develop their technical and leadership skills to sustain the safety profession.
Safety professionals strive to mitigate occupational hazards and enhance worker health. Philosophies considering safety leadership, organizational culture, safety climate, behavior-based safety and system safety aim to pinpoint the best approach for employee safety. However, early career safety professionals are new to practices that create sustainable programs. Students receive a range of safety education and training to prepare for the workforce. Yet, the philosophies set forth are discussed too broadly in undergraduate curricula. Consequentially, this may lead to the inability to apply such safety concepts upon entry into the field.
Safe workplaces have been developed over time from considerations other than enforcing workplace standards. Seasoned managers have learned the skills necessary to justify the safety profession and add organizational value. However, many organizations face an approaching challenge as current managers enter retirement age. This may force many organizations to replace the safety role with an early career professional. The purpose of this article is to discuss strategies to prepare for a future leadership gap. Senior leaders and organizations must recognize the gaps, identify key skills, select emerging talent and implement a structured system to prepare for opening management roles (McCall, 2010). Likewise, early career professionals must develop the technical and leadership skills to sustain the profession. A change in executive leadership requires strategic preparation. With an aging workforce, senior leaders must pave the way for emerging professionals to carry the torch of the safety profession.