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By: Stacey Godbold

The Dangerous Disconnect Between what the C-suite and Operations Think About Safety

Members of the C-suite (CEOs, CMOs, COOs, CFOs, etc.) and people in operations often have very different ideas about safety. 

Just consider the phrase “safety first.” Have you heard managers and owners say it to their employees? Of course you have! As Marc McGill, a recent guest on my podcast, said, “It’s just something that leaders had to say. What else could they say other than ‘safety first’?” 

Marc McGill is an EHS operations consultant (check out his LinkedIn) and the author of The Decision Was Easy: The Ground Truth About Safety Leadership (get his book from Amazon). 

In our conversation, he went on to highlight a difficult reality that faces safety professionals: often, members of the C-suite mainly care about production and cost. Yes, they are certainly concerned about the health and safety of their workers. But is it really their equal highest priority along with profits? Sometimes, yes. Sometimes, no. 

A similar situation exists for people in operations. “When I was in ops,” Marc said, “I got promotions for getting the job done. And I’m not sure that had anything to do with getting it done safely.”

So, when there’s a potentially dangerous disconnect between what the C-suite and operations think about safety, what are safety professionals to do about it? 

There’s no silver bullet. But Marc has a simple yet powerful place to start: “It’s all about the conversation,” he said. And he’s right. As a safety professional, you have to get out there and talk with the workers and with the C-suite, and you have to get them talking to each other. 

Safety conversations are essential. And they come with tons of benefits, including: 

  • They encourage joint solutions to safety problems. 
  • They reinforce that we’re all in this together, that safety is everyone’s priority. 
  • They help workers feel heard and appreciated. 
  • They contribute to an overall healthier and safer working environment.  

Check out my deep-dive into safety with Marc McGill and let me know what you think!

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