November 5, 2013
The Commitment to Safety is Contagious
Any safety professional will tell you that effective leadership is key to a successful safety program. Like any aspects of a company’s culture, employees are much more likely to model a company’s safety mission and vision when they have managers who regularly demonstrate their commitment to the company’s safety efforts. The key word here is “demonstrate.”
Unfortunately, a manager can often be 100% committed to the safety of his workforce, but that commitment can get overshadowed by other important business commitments, like productivity and quality. Managers are often surprised at the results of safety culture assessments, when they hear that their employees rank productivity well above their own personal safety, in terms of importance to the manager. That’s a real problem, isn’t it? If the manager wants his employees to follow him or her towards the goal of world-class safety results, he or she needs them to recognize and share his or her commitment!
Thankfully, all is not lost. The good news is, you’re already committed, right? You just need your people to see, hear, and believe it! Below are a few things you can do to regularly demonstrate your safety commitment. Hang this list in your office, and the next time you walk a jobsite or your production floor, pick one or two of these items and make sure you’re demonstrating them.
- Provide appropriate resources: Encourage your employees to take the time to preplan well, and get the right tools and training to ensure safe work (even when the job is bid tight). No job is worth their life or health. This begins before we step foot on site and ends with the final billing.
- Involve the safety department: Bring your safety representative in when: you have a shutdown; you need a novel fall protection solution; you need a second set of eyes on the project or task; etc.
- Allocate YOUR time for safety: Make time to manage everything on your jobs, including safety. Offer the benefit of your experience. If it’s important enough for your time, it’ll warrant theirs.
- Build relationships: This seems simple, but make time to get to know your folks. When you say you’re looking out for their well-being, they’ll see it’s true. A strong culture is fueled by trust.
- Show concern: Remind your folks WHY we work safely. It’s not for OSHA, it’s for our families, friends, and customers. And you need them to be safe, well, and productive, too!
- Communicate: Bring news, toolbox talks, best practices, and other safety-related info out to jobsites so your people have all the information they need and want.
- Show solidarity: Back up customer and company values. Make sure they are consistently communicated, clarified, and reinforced. Have your field leaders do the same.
- Motivate and encourage mastery: Challenge, inspire, and encourage your people to think about their tasks in different ways, and find creative ways to make them better/safer.
- Audit your sites: What gets measured, gets done – right? Get hazards corrected, address housekeeping concerns, suggest safe work methods, and focus on preplanning, tasks analysis, and organization. Stay positive and improvement-oriented.
- Recognize great behavior: If you walk onto a clean and safe worksite, make sure you thank the crew. Gatorade, coffee, hot chocolate, pizza, etc. go a long way to publicly show your appreciation.
- Ask questions: Show you’re paying attention by asking your employees questions like these:
- “How many injuries have you prevented, today?”
- “What was the topic of your safety talk, today?”
- “What hazards did your task analysis uncover, this morning?”
- “Do you need any help controlling the hazards?”
- “Have you inspected your tools, equipment, or work area?”
- “Have you experienced any near misses or incidents?”
- Ensure accountability: Send a crystal clear message by holding employees accountable for deliberate safety infractions. Coach them first, then discipline if necessary. It’s never enjoyable, but it’s far better than waiting for an injury – or worse!
- Reward and promote those who share your vision: Emphasize safety as one of the main criteria in performance evaluations and, when looking for your next leader, consider organizational skills, thorough task analyses, and “solidarity” with company values.
- Promote good personal attitudes: Combine all these and be enthusiastic. You’d be surprised at how quickly a good attitude spreads. Also address any negativity you see – bad attitudes spread fast, too!
Remember: If you’re committed to the safety of your employees, you’re already halfway there. You just need to make sure your employees know that you’re committed. Once you get in the habit of demonstrating your commitment, when you lead, they’ll follow.