In recent years, the lack of diversity across various fields has become a hot topic. It’s seen as not only an unfair advantage to some groups by filling high-paying positions with members of that group but also as a key player in racial and ethnic inequity across the board. After all, the jobs we have dictate how the rest of our life plays out in most cases.
One such field that has a clear disparity between the racial and ethnic groups representing it is the Health and Safety field.
As such, we want to present three ways that we can all work to increase diversity within the safety field to create a more balanced socio-economic playing field for all.
Let’s get started.
What is Health and Safety?
If you’re not in the field directly, or you’re not familiar with it at all, here’s a brief introduction to what the health and safety field is.
Health and safety is a fairly diverse group of positions that all focus on promoting healthy, safe practices among workers. In most positions, health and safety professionals typically oversee other employees to ensure they’re not doing anything that could compromise their health or the safety of others, and they’ll inspect the various machines, equipment pieces, and products that those employees are using to ensure that they’re not being exposed to unnecessary risks.
Not only is this key to preventing accidents on the worker’s side of things, but it’s also an absolute must to ensure that customers or whoever is receiving the products/services of a business has a safe, healthy, smooth experience; think of how recalls and other issues can affect the general public to get an understanding of what health and safety officers do for more than just workers.
These professionals will also report when they find safety practices being neglected, dysfunctional, and unsafe equipment and other situations that might not have resulted in injuries yet to provide guidance for management teams to correct the issues before they become much worse. That role as an advisory source is also a crucial part of the job description, and most health and safety workers work heavily with management teams to continuously innovate safety practices and identify potential risks.
There are other positions in the health and safety field, and practically any position focused on overseeing practices falls into the field in general.
Why is Diversity Important in Health and Safety?
We touched on this earlier, but we want to go more in-depth with it here.
First, increasing the amount of diversity in the health and safety field is good for communities around the world. The health and safety field is a well-paying field with plenty of room for growth, and great work/life balance, and it provides an exceptional sense of fulfillment since the entire job is focused on keeping people safe.
Not only that, but while the health and safety field is known for generous wages and benefits, it’s also not overly difficult to become a part of. Proper education and experience are necessary, but it’s not quite as intense as going for the BAR exam or getting a highly specialized medical license.
This means that it can be an amazing opportunity for all; especially racial and ethnic groups that have largely been kept out of high-paying fields due to living circumstances and other obstacles unique to them.
By increasing the diversity of the health and safety workforce, wealth and opportunity can be spread in a more balanced way to the parts of our communities that could use some help.
Then, you have to consider the untapped potential of such racial and ethnic groups. While each individual brings their own life experiences to the table and is capable of innovating, many racial and ethnic groups have been left untapped; potentially causing the field to not meet its full potential.
Here are three changes we believe can be made to the recruitment and onboarding process, as well as day-to-day operations, to increase racial and ethnic diversity in health and safety.
Like most well-paying positions, the status quo for appearance, speech, and behaviour has been fairly homogeneous since corporations became a thing. Specific hairstyles, grooming expectations, speech patterns, and mannerisms tend to be focused more on a traditionally upper-class Caucasian image.
This greatly limits the accessibility of the field for those from various ethnic backgrounds; as they’re expected to change their natural hair, forgo their own cultural customs, and adopt specific at-work language practices that are essentially masking their unique identities.
While certain things must be upheld for safety reasons, such as having hair below a certain length to keep it from getting caught in equipment, or facial hair from falling into food products, leaving plenty of room for cultural preferences in the workplace will go a long way towards attracting a more diverse group of employees.
Expanded Recruitment Outreach:
In some cases, prime health and safety prospects might not even know there are opportunities available that take advantage of their skillsets and abilities.
Much of the health and safety field is contained in word-of-mouth recruitment and online listings on sites that many wouldn’t go out of their way to find unless they knew what they were looking for.
This can essentially lock those from low-income areas out of the application process; as they either don’t know that the positions are available due to their available networking circle, or they might not have reliable internet access via an application-friendly computer.
Participating in job fairs in areas of all kinds, advertising via traditional methods, and recruiting directly from various colleges can all increase the accessibility of the health and safety field for those from various racial and ethnic backgrounds.
In-House Promotions with Diverse Entry-Level Hiring:
Finally, we must consider that many people from minority groups are forced to rely on entry-level positions due to the cost of schooling and various racial discrepancies of the past making it more difficult for them to enter formal education or unpaid internships for experience requirements.
Employers can make this an opportunity rather than a curse by promoting within the company itself.
Let’s use a production floor with a health and safety officer position as an example. Instead of looking to poach talent from outside the company that is pre-trained, it can be more beneficial to look at the workers in entry-level and supervisory positions on the production floor, find prospects that show exemplary performance, and reach out to them about Health and Safety training and promotion.
This gives people of various racial and ethnic backgrounds the opportunity to work from the positions most readily available to the high-paying role of a Health and Safety Officer while eliminating obstacles that have been developed over generations of racial disparity.
Diversity in Health and Safety Benefits Us All
By using these simple practices, and adopting others that present themselves, we can bring about real change in the health and safety field; not just for those from racial and ethnic backgrounds that are under-employed in the field, but for the field and the general public itself, too.
By increasing diversity in the workforce, we all benefit.