What Challenges Face the Safety Industry?

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Professors Dr. Spurlock and Dr. Rawlins discuss challenges facing the safety industry and how EKU prepares students to meet those challenges.


I think some of the biggest challenges facing safety professionals today, is understanding how organizations work as a whole, and understanding how safety integrates into other aspects of an organization, and knowing that safety does not exist in a silo within an organization. That we’re there to help the organization be sustainable, help the organization have overall success. Sometimes safety professionals tend to get into a mold, if you will, or into a silo, and they think the organization exists just to be an experiment in safety, to see how safe they can be. That’s not always the case, so we try to prepare our students to understand the concept of risk, and that our role as safety professionals is largely to reduce risk, to make the organization successful.

So knowing how to manage is a challenge that safety professionals face. We really try to give our students a well rounded perspective on how to be safety managers, and safety generalist, and understand how to get other experts involved in these things, and let their leadership skills shine.

Having strong communication skills is a absolute essential, particularly if you want to separate yourself from the average safety professional with a person who’s really gonna be a mover and shaker in these field. We try to make sure our students understand the importance of communication, whether it be verbal or whether it be written, and why that’s so important, because right or wrong, executives in organizations, many times, will judge your professional credibility based off your ability to communication, not how technically sound you are. We’re trying to make well rounded safety professionals that understand risk, they’re generalists, they can be executives and leaders in the field of safety, and they’re very good at communicating the safety message.

Another additional challenge that’s rarely talked about, but is still a challenge, that the profession is going through right now, is we recognize that the demographics of the population of the United States is changing.

The population is becoming more and more diverse. Therefore, there’s an opportunity for young people and universities to recruit and educate a more diverse population of students.

The challenge is for universities and organization, is to recruit and retain a more diverse population of students. We need to make sure that our classrooms are as diverse in population as we expect it to be in the future, so that our students will be reflective of the diverse populations that they will represent and manage in the future.