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Facility Management’s Relationship to Workplace Safety
Steven Ee, CFM, Reg.SO, FSM

The occupational health and safety function commonly falls under the facility management function in an organization. Even for the facility manager who is not directly accountable, the works and practices do have an impact on workplace safety. The goal of this article is to reinforce the effects and contributions of facility management toward workplace safety.

A facility manager’s responsibilities vary from organization to organization; other than the traditional property maintenance and operations, security, facilities project management, safety and health, in today’s competitive and dynamic business environment, and erratic global epidemic conditions, new roles have been added. For example, facility management now often participates in and anticipates the need to establish business continuity planning strategies to support its organization’s core business; the need to establish bird flu, Dengue Fever, etc., contingency planning, are new tasks.

Regardless of the responsibilities of a facility manager, it is the aim and challenge for facility management’s practice to consider and integrate the workplace three P’s: People-Place-Process. One of the main challenges under the “people” segment is to ensure that staff and visitors are safe. It is possible for facility management to influence safety as we look into involvement throughout the facility life cycle and the likely people that may be affected by the outcome of facilities products such as space, utilities and signage.


Facility life cycle

Facility Management involvement starts as early as the conceptual phase in a facility project which may include the acquisition of property, designing and constructing the buildings, fitting out facilities to support the organization’s operation, disposal of facilities, and so on. Thus, facility management plays an important role to consider and to incorporate workplace safety measures during facilities set up, maintenance, operation, alteration and disposal.

The people working within the organization, visitors, clients, contractors and even fellow facility management colleagues, may feel the impact on safety and health by the output of the works by facility management.

Internal people. These are people within the organization that inherit the workplace set-up by the facility management department, together with the end users like production and manufacturing. The design and installation of the facilities will have effect on the users if the safety and health are not considered or incorporated in the set-up. The adversities vary from industry to industry. For example, biochemical and semiconductors are industries that have higher risks as compared to textile and food industries.

External people. This refers to visitors, contractors, vendors and customers entering and needing to work at the organization’s premises.

Fellow facility management colleagues. The actions among colleagues in facility management on maintenance and operations affect safety. Unsafe acts or works carried out that do not follow safe work procedures include failing to comply with safety and health programs, procedures, rules and regulations. Unsafe acts such as failing to do proper “Lock-Out and Tag-Out,” use proper or approved safe equipment or materials, etc., may cause harm to fellow colleagues.


The challenge

Unsafe acts can be intentional or unintentional, violating the safe work procedures and practices. Some of the common reasons for not complying with the safe working procedures or practices are:

It is too difficult or complicated
It is too time consuming
It does not apply to me…so why is it my problem?
It is not necessary
I’ve always been doing it that way
Knowing that the consequences of unsafe acts may result in near-misses, injuries or loss of lives and properties is important. Questions to consider:

Despite safety and health training and procedures, why are people still not following rules?
Why do people still commit unsafe acts or behavior?
As facility management practitioners, we can overcome those unsafe acts and unsafe behaviors by establishing strategies to instill and cultivate behaviors and a mindset that focuses on safety.


Approach to safety-focused mindset

Think about it. Most accidents and incidents are the result of unsafe acts. Unsafe acts are behaviors. To change a person’s behavior is challenging, as it involves the shifting of the person’s psychology. To determine the root causes of unsafe behaviors or acts, it need not be as profound as studying human’s belief and values systems. Let’s examine this using a simple illustration, what I call the “Domino Effect of Human Behaviour” toward workplace safety and health.

The immediate cause of an outcome (or consequence) is the result of an action. It is by choice, exhibiting outwardly in the form of unsafe acts or behaviours. Those actions are the result of one’s feeling, happening internally, which triggers the action. What really causes a person to feel the way he or she feels is due to his or her thoughts. Simply stated, all of our actions first start with the way we think.

This illustration enables us to understand why people do what they do-the way people think. When the “why” is known, the “how” strategy can be established.

So, to rid the unsafe acts and behaviors in facility management practices, we have to first begin with the mindset of the employee. Largely, we have to “reprogram” and condition the mindset yielding to the benefits of acting safely so that the people can be convinced to be committed to follow safe work practices and procedures…all the time.


Practical steps

Train staff to observe unsafe acts and understand the probable consequences. Reward safe behavior and perform observations to drive improvement in workplace safety and health conditions in the organization.

Work on the emotional aspect by reminding employees, through posters or talks, that:

The moral of safety is to see that staff goes home safely to their families.
We do not wish to inform the victim’s family that the accident occured because their parents or children did not observe the safety rules.
If they do not want to be hurt or hurt others, then each is responsible for one another’s safety and health in the workplace.
With the knowledge of the unfavorable consequences that may be caused as a result of unsafe acts and practices, reinforce that everyone should start their work with the end in mind.

Some suggestions for conditioning programs include implementing proactive actions that consistently:

Implement and maintain appropriate engineering and administrative control measures
Continually condition the mind to achieve good mindset in safety and health in the workplace through training or even coaching
Set safe work procedures or work statements by owners of tasks
Assess the need for protective machinery guards and interlocks at production, manufacturing or workshop workplaces
Learn and update workplace safety, health skills and knowledge
In short, consistently reinforcing in the people the positive outcome for safe working behaviour, influencing them the perception of risk and their consequences of unsafe acts.


Benefits of practicing safety

Creating consistent awareness of the importance of safe practices and behavior will harvest benefits such as:

Raising the standard and perception of facility management
Keeping the workplace safe, free from accidents and injuries
Trust amongst fellow colleagues
Preventing loss, thus safekeeping jobs and bonuses



No matter how good the workplace safety and health management system or the facility management policies and procedures, ultimately it is the “people” who make it happen which is greatly influenced by the mindset.

Creating and maintaining people’s mindset to follow safe work procedures and practices is not an easy task. It requires appropriate training, encouragement and enforcement targeting the people’s mindset.

Include safety practices as facility management’s goal to contribute to safety advancement. It will be a goal worth striving toward as the outcome will be a significant reduction in number of unsafe acts. This in turn will result in reduced incidents, injuries or accidents and contribute to the organization’s well being. FMJ


About the Author:

Steven Ee, CFM, is a Registered Workplace Safety and Health Officer and Fire Safety Manager with the government bodies. He is with FMsolutions, Singapore, a training and consultancy company that provides solutions to facility management and its professionals. His area of focus is in strategic soft skills management for the facility management practitioners. He can be contacted at


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