It is already indicated that safety could well be a staff function, in some cases modified into a combination of staff functions with personnel allocated in line positions of the actual operations. No hard and fast rule can be made. However, the safety unit is of considerable importance.
A survey in the US of some 300 firms gives a result that in 33 per cent, the safety unit is a separate department directly reporting to some management level. In 67 per cent the unit is either amalgamated with another department (26 percent) or subordinated to another department (41 per cent)
We must study the reporting aspect with care. With regard to contact of the safety unit, the most frequent ones are undoubtedly with the operating departments via training sessions, safety talks, accident investigations, safety inspections and proposals for prevention of accidents, as well as setting up safety rules.
There is also large front of contract, with personnel and medical departments and also with I R department. There are a number of aspects where I R and Safety have common grounds.
I R Department contact comes in more at the time of issuing warning letters to workers for violation of safety. Also with regard to reporting accidents to the Factory Inspectorate I R. and safety have common grounds.
Against combining the safety unit with one of the operating departments, the influence of that safety unit could tend to become restricted to that particular department, whereas it is intended to cover the entire operations in the company. There is moreover, the undesirable chance of an operating department too readily dominating the subordinate safety unit.
Weighting these various possibilities, one is strongly inclined to advocate, for large companies, an independent safety department reporting to management, preferably to the Technical Manager in a staff of functional capacity. In the case of a widespread operating company the safety supervisors could then be allocated to particular areas reporting either to the local head of operations or preferably to the local I R representatives. In either case a strong functional contact should be maintained between the head of the Safety Department and the Safety Supervisors providing the latter with a direct channel to management.
In smaller operations with less variety of activities, a safety section in the Industrial Relations Department might well prove the most efficient and most economical to run.
The personnel to be recommended for selection of the safety functions should as for any other job quality for a number of minimum requirements if they are expected to do this work successfully, for this work is not easy. The safety man has to impact, teach, propose changes and guide investigations. In short he has to do a lot of things which by their very nature are apt to provoke resentment in others as he is poking his nose into their business. And this is valid for the whole range of safety personnel from Department Head to Junior Safety supervisor.
We can thus conclude that the man must have a personality which combines perseverance with the gift to compromise when this is not to detriment of safety. He must have ideas, enthusiasm and an ability to “sell” safety but also, he must be responsible and ready to give advice so that will avoid being considered. “The Secret Police”
With regard to his education and background, it is generally appreciated that he should have a technical upbringing and experience in factories. Better and faster results are expected by giving specialized safety training to an experienced man of the right personality out of the same company than trying to add experience to a total outsider who has not lived with the company.
The safety man of the future should at least be an engineering graduate with sufficient knowledge, both spoken and written, of the local language. He should be able to preside over meetings or act as secretary to meetings. Besides that, knowledge of English would be welcome. Finally do not choose a man who has no ability to write a comprehensive report or keep records.
The special training that should be given to the candidate for safety work comprises, in the first instance, of the basic techniques to promote safety and prevent accidents. There are several books and courses available by now to achieve this, some treating general aspects, others going into great detail of specialized applications.
Equally important, with the training techniques, however, is the use of visual aids and how to prepare them, the use of statistics and the Factories Act as well as various Safety Codes.
It is always sound to know how much an activity costs. Therefore, a budget should be made for safety just as for any other activity. It should be comprehensive, covering not only the salaries of the staff but also what is expected to be spent on training, publications, lectures, demonstrations, incentive schemes, firms, visits abroad etc,.