Health and Safety Manager

If you enter any food manufacturing plant and ask what their most important objective is, the likely response you will hear is safety. Not only producing safe, quality food, but also ensuring that workers are safe in the process.

Even with safety on everyone’s mind, it can be difficult to implement. People need to be educated and continuously reminded how to perform their work safely. Companies looking to have strong safety, health and environmental programs hire Health and Safety Managers.

Health and Safety Managers (HSMs) are an integral part of a food manufacturing plant.

Health and Safety Managers ensure the safety of employees

Health and Safety Managers prevent workplace accidents and injuries by developing procedures, initiatives and training courses to promote a proactive safety and health culture.

These safety experts identify companies’ safety weaknesses by conducting regular and random safety inspections. They examine operations, and equipment and attempt to identify places where potential accidents, fires or health hazards could occur. HSMs create strategies based on findings from inspections to ensure that company facilities are in complete compliance with health and safety standards.

In the event of an accident, such as someone getting hit by a forklift, they perform an investigation. Health and Safety Managers determine contributing factors and recommend remedial action to prevent reoccurrences.

They also act as a liaison between employees and employers. Sometimes workers are uncomfortable with telling their employees about safety issues. HSMs provide support and work to improve on these issues.

Finally, these safety experts are responsible for setting up workshops and training programs that trains staff members how to work in safer conditions.

Health and Safety Managers develop training programs

Workplace and occupational health and safety (OHS) programs are different. Despite this, there are many key elements that make up all programs. Depending on the size of a company, a HSM either creates or improves upon health and safety policies. Even with safety as a top priority, workers need education and training regarding work safety practices.

HSMs may set up formal classroom instructions that include lectures, discussions and videos. Training may involve small groups with hands-on, job-specific training. Through training, HSMs observe workers to ensure they follow safe work procedures and the use of proper protective equipment.

Health and Safety Managers typically have education backgrounds in Occupational Health and Safety

The most common educational background for HSMs is a degree or certificate in Occupational Health and Safety. Occupational Health and Safety degrees vary in length but generally offer similar course structure. Courses include ergonomics, industrial hygiene, hazard identification and legislation for health and safety.

Keep in mind, this is not the only degree you can have to be an HSM. Some workplaces allow individuals to have a background in engineering, life science and sometimes even in food science. However, in order to become a manager, an individual would need to have working experience in a manufacturing environment in a safety capacity.

A good resource for Canadians interested in pursuing this profession is the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety resource page.

Healthy and Safety Managers document a lot of information

Working as a Health and Safety Manager involves a lot of information gathering. Monitoring processes involve data and notes to be collected – all things that involve data collection! When performing audits, managers either take physical notes (which can be transferred online later), or they record information directly on a tablet. HSMs use data to identify potential problems and trends, as well as to action plans. Therefore, you must be an organized individual to keep up with everything! Health and Safety Managers conduct regular audits.

Audits are methodical, independent and documented assessments of a business’ system and processes. The findings from the assessments are measured against regulated criteria to make sure health and safety standards are being upheld. Audits are important because they identify potential problems and non-compliance in the workplace.

When running audits, Health and Safety Managers assess whether workers are upholding safety policies or if there are hidden safety concerns. Audits allow an HSM to address issues such as poor planning, organizational structures and hazard identification. Once audits are completed, food manufacturing plants review and correct their mistakes, making sure that it does not happen again.

Health and Safety Managers have an in-depth knowledge of HSE regulations

Although health and safety regulations vary from country to country, there are a few core regulations that they need to master. Some of the regulations they need to be aware of are:

  • Occupational Safety and Health Act: This is an act created to prevent workers from being killed or otherwise harmed at work. This law requires employers to provide their employees with conditions that are free of known dangers.
  • Canadian Labour Code: This act’s objective is to facilitate production by controlling strikes and lockouts, occupational health and safety and other employment standards. It focuses on the recognition and prevention of hazards.
  • Canada Environmental Act: The objective of this act is to contribute to sustainable development through pollution prevention and to protect the environment, human life and health from the risks associated with toxic substances.

Health and Safety Managers are leaders

To implement change, Health and Safety Managers have to effectively manage a team. HSMs understand the strengths and weaknesses of an organization and use it to promote proactive worker safety. They are comfortable with managing projects without being managed themselves.

Overall, HSMs act as the face of ultimate safety and are the ones that anyone can go to for questions regarding safety.

Health and Safety Managers are analytical, organized and communicate

Being a Health and Safety Manager requires a range of skills. However, there are a few which are more essential than others. These skills include:

  • Analytical skills – HSMs apply analysis and problem-solving skills to solve safety issues and come up with logical strategies for effective issue response.
  • Organizational Skills – As stated earlier, these professionals do a lot of data gathering. Therefore, they need to be organized in such a way that any file or document can be found at a moment’s notice. Depending on the size of the company, HSMs could travel between plants. When traveling, they need to have all their belongings in check!
  • Communication and Relationship Management – These professionals influence others to achieve desired results by building support and commitment. Through effective communication, they negotiate, consult and build relationships.

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