Developing safety leaders in your business can mean the difference between marginal and world-class results. It long has been accepted that successful programs push the responsibility for safety down into the organization, utilizing the power of many to foster a safe work environment. In most cases, this requires line supervisors and all employees to take on additional responsibility in an already stretched workforce.
With additional responsibilities, supervisors and employees struggle to prioritize and complete safety tasks. Without the proper understanding of how and why it is important to become a safety leader, a gap in management expectations and employee perceptions develops.
If you want to develop successful safety leaders, consider the following:
- Serve the customer;
- Talk safety;
- Walk safety;
- Do safety.
Serve the Customer
Leadership begins at an early age. When we are children, we learn to follow as our parents set rules or correct misbehavior. As teenagers, we feel the influences of peer pressure and tend to follow others. In adulthood, we have to make decisions to follow others or lead them in a positive manner. Great leaders learn to serve their teammates and customers toward a common goal.
Imagine you have been asked to address all employees at a group meeting and discuss how the team can improve the site’s safety record. You just were informed of the meeting 5 minutes ago and have no time to prepare. What do you say?
Safety leaders know they have to address employees all the time about safety and are prepared in advance. One way to make sure you have a consistent, positive message is to develop a one-liner and an elevator speech.
In the winter time, many organizations work diligently to remove ice from walkways and entrances. Ice easily can be missed and can re-form quickly, exposing employees to slip-and-fall hazards. Recently, I reviewed a facility that had three slip-and-fall incidents on the same morning, in the same area. A bucket of salt was located near the entrance but no one took action to put the salt down. When asked why, the response was, “That’s not my job.”
Plan ahead and know how you are going to integrate safety into your daily routine. Maybe you set time a side every morning and start each meeting with safety or make a commitment to not turn a blind eye. Whatever your plan, you have to develop it now and find a way to integrate safety regularly into your daily routine. Keep it simple and start out slowly so it is an easy transition.
Safety is a team game that takes involvement from everyone. Developing employees into safety leaders and fostering an action-based safety culture while pushing responsibility for safety down into an organization creates a team-based approach that results in superior performance. This approach allows all employees to be players on the field and not just bench warmers.
Joe Tavenner CSP, CFPS, has years of experience, a bachelors and masters degree in Occupational Safety Management and an MBA in Management. For more information contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.