What is a Safety Director?


A number of years ago I attended a company Christmas party. After the dinner, two senior executives of the company started a drinking contest. Sambuca bottles were brought out along with shot glasses and the contest began. Some time passed.

A lady (a driver’s wife) strutted up to me and said: “Stop this”! Questioning what she was talking about, she answered, “Well, you’re the Safety Director, stop this nonsense.”

The average person has no idea what a Safety Director is or does. It’s a name that conjures up law enforcement, a keeper of the peace, a person in control of others, and so on. It is also confusing because the title is often lumped in with Enforcement, Peace, and Safety Officers alike. “Safety Officer” – someone on a firing range who ensures ammunition is handled safely.

By the way, when he/she is off duty, none of these titles provide the power to stop people from drinking alcohol. Other than age restrictions for children, the laws do not even address people drinking in a licensed establishment. Only the bartender has responsibilities.

First, in my opinion, the title should never exceed “safety practitioner” unless the person has departmental management authority. Then, the closest name could be “Safety Manager”.

Therein, lies the basis for a safety practitioner. Someone who designs and imparts safety information to both the employer and the employees. It is a long and involved process. Difficult, at times, to reach a balance between the two but, nothing more than a “sales” job.

It gets confusing because safety relies on governmental legislation and not on common sense prevention. Yes, both workplace parties must be advised just what the law says so that compliance is obtained. More importantly, prevention of injuries, casualties and property is the goal of any safety thinking person. No matter who you are, what you do or what title is bestowed upon you, we all should be safety practitioners. The ‘Stay-at-home Mom” is probably the greatest safety practitioner there is in society.

Unfortunately, many company executives are no more intelligent than our lady at the Christmas party. They also confuse the duties. Many expect the safety practitioner to be the cop, to stop infractions, to penalize workers and many safety people jump right in on the bandwagon. They do so because their boss tells them to and because they don’t really, try to understand the purpose of safety information in the first place. Some, get a great kick out of the feeling of power over others. This is not restricted to safety but is a personality trait that shows up in any organization especially, with newly promoted people.

The idea of “safety” is to prevent injuries and “so called” accidents. Just about any means of promoting that message, if it will stop someone from hurting themselves or others, is the proper action to take. The benefit to human life and society, as a whole, warrant us all to think safety.

Promote safety and stay away from confrontation. In my experience, confrontation just gets the recipient’s “back up” and they’ll do the damage in-spite-of the warning. That just “festers” and they’ll keep doing it to themselves forever until they get hurt.

About the Author

Nick Nicholson, is a retired safety practitioner who became a commercial transportation safety specialist spending many years researching the human behaviour factors of driver and pedestrian actions. Specifically, he spent 25 of those years devoted to highway crash investigations, regulatory compliance, design and the implementation and presentation of safety programs. Nick enjoyed many hours presenting professional driver enhancement training to adult participants.

As a long time Member and Founding Chair (1992-1995) of Fleet Safety Council’s Hamilton-Niagara Chapter, he presents his opinions in hopes of improving the safety knowledge of readers. Nick is a firm believer in human advancement through positive attitudes, solution thinking and the understanding that the beauty of life is always in your hands.

“Your Old Uncle Nicky’s Opinions”

Old Uncle Nicky’s Opinions are his own and in no way reflect the opinions of Fleet Safety Council.

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