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Safety Management Insights

What Makes a Great Safety Manager?

Posted by Don Brown on Jul 9, 2015 8:30:00 AM

what_makes_great_safety_manager-1Are you a safety manager looking to hone your skills and impress your peers? Or are you hoping to hire a quality safety manager who will improve working conditions and cut incident-related costs at your company?

Either way, there are several qualities you need to look for and cultivate. From creativity to critical thinking, the best safety managers possess a variety of traits that lead to sound policies, productive training sessions and greater company-wide buy-in to safety initiatives. 

Here are a few of the most important qualities that make a great safety manager.


The ability to positively influence people is crucial to getting safety initiatives off the ground. Creating new policies on paper is just the first step of the process, and workers need to buy in to new practices before any real results can be achieved. 

  • Do the workers at your company respect your expertise and value your contributions? 
  • Are people willing to follow your lead—without enticement or fear of reprimand?
  • Do you lead by example, following and carrying out the practices you recommend to others?

These are the questions you need to ask yourself and potential colleagues and new hires.

Goal Orientation

A dedicated, passionate safety manager can come up with all manner of policies that will reduce accidents and illnesses. Not every one of them can be put into place, however. For better or worse, working conditions, budgets and project demands will always influence the feasibility of potential policy changes. 

A truly effective manager will be able to focus on the big picture of any given safety concern and create policies that will reliably produce significant, measurable results. A deep understanding of the 80/20 rule is a plus. Most incident reductions will be the result of a few, simple, well-thought-out actions, and getting caught up in the minor details will only produce fewer results at higher costs.

Financial Smarts

Budgeting is one of a safety manager’s most important tasks. Most businesses operate on thin margins, and while employers want to do everything they can to keep their workers safe and productive, they also have to keep their operating budgets in mind. 

A great safety manager needs the financial know-how to effectively allocate their limited resources. From personal protective equipment to employee training to machinery maintenance, every action that might improve safety will come at a cost. Choosing expenses wisely isn’t just a financial matter – it’s a serious safety concern.

Managers also need to be able to demonstrate the ROI of safety management initiatives, whether it’s a new training program or a new safety software system


Safety personnel handle dangerous, life-or-death concerns on a daily basis, and an unwavering moral compass is a must. Commitment to worker safety is critical, as is a dedication to safety policy regulations. Great safety managers are usually the types who can be trusted to always do the right thing, and to never take an easy but questionable path to solve a tough problem.

Technical Skills

Finally, any effective safety manager needs the knowledge and technical skills to excel at his or her job. An in-depth knowledge of regulatory concerns is a great starting point, but that knowledge needs to be combined with hands-on experience documenting, reporting, investigating and preventing work-related incidents. When training and instructing employees, safety mangers must be able to explain how each new policy will actually affect the performance of specific tasks.

A safety manager’s responsibilities continue to expand, and it seems like there are never enough hours in the day to do everything that needs to be done. 

For a few tips to help boost your efficiency, check out our free resource, 9 Ways to Make Your Job As A Safety Manager Easier.

9 Ways to Make Your Job as a Safety Manager Easier