What’s Next for Safety?- Succession Planning
What’s Next for Safety?- Succession Planning

In many organizations, managing safety is not always a full- time job. Many have to oversee the safety program while also managing other day-to-day operations and other programs. Some safety professionals are lucky enough to be able to spend all of their time focused on the safety program. Either way, the safety role usually includes managing safety policies and procedures, performing audits, providing education and training, and consistently working to improve the overall culture.
But what happens when the safety professional has a job change, a promotion or is ready for retirement? What happens to all of that safety knowledge and experience? Wouldn’t a gap like that be a detriment to the organization’s safety program? Yes, and businesses should always be preparing for such an event.
One way to get prepared for a transition of safety duties is to identify a potential replacement while you are still working in your role. Look for someone who has shown interest in your work or has asked good questions about safety issues. Ask them to shadow you as you perform your safety tasks. Ask them to review safety procedures that are due to be revised, and have them watch a safety audit and describe how it should be performed. Ask them to create and possibly present safety education for the staff as well.
This may seem more difficult if you are the department manager with safety responsibilities. However, there can be a benefit to identifying someone among the staff to perform some of the safety tasks as they can eventually come off of your plate. Leaders should also always have an active succession plan, so if safety must remain under your purview, make sure it is part of your discussions with your potential leadership replacement(s).
If, as a safety leader you run a safety committee, look for potential future safety leaders in that group. There may be one or more good candidates for future safety leadership. You can assess their readiness by delegating projects and tasks. Again, things like creating safety education, working on policies, and performing audits are great “auditions” for a future job. You can also ask the committee to create a safety fair, or to develop a safety poster contest or other projects which help to raise safety awareness in the various departments.
Provide resources for potential leaders such as safety documents and regulations. Involve them in internal and external safety inspections. If the EPA, the local fire department, or even the wastewater authority arrives for an audit, allow those staff members to be involved in the process. Getting a taste of these typical safety events can help people discern whether or not they want a future in the field. Preparing the organization for an upcoming accreditation inspection is also great experience.
Another way to help someone on their path if they are interested in safety is to help them get certified. ASCP offers a Qualification in Lab Safety (QLS), for example, and there are other professional safety certifications available. Preparing for the certification will help someone learn more about specific safety topics like Bloodborne Pathogens, Chemical Hygiene, and Waste Management among others. The suggested study resources and references will remain important in the hands of a future safety leader.
Given the current workforce shortage, it may become more difficult to fill job openings as the years pass. Leaders are vital, all employees are key, and safety professionals will always be necessary. Planning for succession is something that should be inherent in the department for most positions. The organizational chart should be designed with succession in mind and a staffing plan that goes beyond today. Safety should always be a key piece in the organization’s overall succession process.

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