How to Get the C-Suite’s Attention with Your Workplace Safety Program

August 11, 2022 | New Workplace Leadership | 5 min read

Getting and maintaining executive buy-in and support for your organization’s environmental, health, and safety (EHS) program is one of the most effective components in building a mature, scalable, and efficient compliance program. But while the C-suite has a vested interest in keeping employees healthy and injury-free, they also have a business to run.

How can workplace safety professionals balance the operational concerns of the C-suite with the fundamental objective of keeping employees safe?

“COVID-19 has helped to elevate the importance of workplace safety initiatives in many organizations,” said Katy Schick, Corporate EHS Manager, The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company. “As a result, our EHS program has been pushed into the limelight. Whereas our executive team may not have been focused on these initiatives in previous years, they are now paying closer attention to scorecard metrics to ensure that we’re doing all we can to keep our employees healthy and injury-free.”

The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company recently rolled out metrics scorecards as part of its EHS training – everyone wants to be seen as doing well because these are the metrics that leadership is checking on weekly. The scorecards have served as both lagging and leading indicators to key safety metrics.

Elements of an effective Workplace Safety Program

I recently sat down with Schick, Brian Borguno, Sr. Training Specialist / Corporate Safety Specialist, Canon Business Process Services, and Blaine Hoffmann, host, The SafetyPro Podcast, to discuss workplace safety – including how the practice has changed within organizations over the past few years.

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“It’s funny,” said Borguno, “I think a lot of organizations felt that an effective safety compliance program was easy to accomplish. COVID brought an awareness that our EHS compliance team brings a lot to the table – information, organization, creativity. It really highlighted the work we do as a value-add, not just a necessary side note.”

Schick agreed. She said, “COVID-19 also reminded us that technology can work in our favor. Web-based training ensures our team can learn what they need to learn in a safe environment, and that everyone (even if they are working from different locations) receives the same message in a common language that we can all understand.”

When all employees are learning the same information – no matter where they are located or what language they speak – organizations can feel confident they are actively reducing knowledge gaps and creating a stronger workforce.

Aligning your Workplace Safety Initiatives with your organization’s needs

So, how can workplace safety training capture the attention of your organization’s executive leaders? Borguno said, “For Canon Business Process Services, training is a key pillar of our overall safety governance program. The program is comprised of four components: written policies and procedures, site-specific safe work practices, training and education, and metrics.”

Employee training in health and safety helps organizations to educate employees on various workplace hazards and how to manage them. It covers the ways by which employees can identify workplace hazards, address them, and avoid them.

“At Scotts Miracle-Gro Company, we want to train people who are not EHS professionals on how to integrate safety into their everyday jobs,” said Schick. “We want to go beyond OSHA requirements and integrate a culture of safety into our team’s daily tasks.”

Safety, in this case, is a cultural objective. Organizations with a positive safety culture have shared perceptions of the importance of safety at work and are confident in the efficacy of preventive measures.

What gets Measured gets Managed

What gets measured gets managed,” said Schick. “It is only when leaders stress the importance of EHS that the whole team focuses on making that a priority.”

Even if the entire organization sees the value of your workplace safety training program, it cannot be best-in-class unless your executive leadership team supports it. Your leadership team establishes the standards and values within your organization and ultimately has the power to enforce and prioritize safety requirements.

Our team doesn’t need our CEO to do a lot,” admitted Borguno. “We just need him to talk generally about the importance of workplace safety initiatives to get the team on board and highlight the importance of these initiatives. We’re interested in top-down support, bottom-up implementation.”

That in mind, organizations must measure what they deem important -- incident metrics, training percentages, property damage costs, and other metrics. Sharing this information with the executive team creates a feedback loop that ensures an organization’s most important initiatives are being continuously managed.

However an organization shares this information with its leadership team – whether it be a simple report or a comprehensive dashboard – the important thing is to arm the team with the metrics necessary to hold people accountable for the goals that have been set.

“Sometimes the best thing a leader can do is to hold the business accountable,” said Borguno. “Where are we? Where do we need help? Where are we falling short? The CEO can then manage resources towards the necessary effort.”

What are the Next Steps?

EHS compliance professionals reading this article may be at various stages of getting executive buy-in for their training programs. So, what’s the best way to move any program forward?

Schick shares The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company’s best practices for getting buy-in from the C-suite: “Chances are, your C-suite cares about operations and about making sure that an effective workplace safety program is not a hinderance to their operational goals.” She advises EHS professionals to become a partner to the C-suite – how can you make things safe at your organizations? How can you make their jobs easier? How will this impact the bottom line? How can you prove it?

Borguno advises EHS professionals: “Identify a champion. Someone in the organization you can partner with to start making change happen.” A champion serves as the link between the C-suite and your employees, and serves to motivate, advise on, and understand your workplace safety policies so they can both embody and underscore the importance of safety in the workplace.

Curious to learn more? Download our guide on how to get executive buy-in for your workplace safety program.