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It is widely understood that creating a culture of safety in the workplace requires providing employees with the proper training, tools, equipment, and resources. However, access alone is only the first step — to truly engage employees in committing to day-to-day safe working practices, organizations need leaders to establish the central vision of safety, reinforce messaging, and teach through action. But what is the best way to elevate and empower an employee with potential to the mantle of a safety leader capable of following through on these tactics?
The sentiment is said often, but it holds true: being an effective leader is about more than a title. This is because leadership as a principal is a developed mentality — a natural spark that is grown through proper guidance, encouragement, and development. This is particularly important when it comes to safety because a safety leader is responsible for understanding and mitigating workplace risks and challenges not only for themselves but for the entire team or organization.
Championing the framework for how employees will do their jobs free from injury, while mitigating risk, requires nourishing key values in potential safety leaders; namely, the ideas of continual improvement, and confidence to enforce the underlying vision of safety.
An effective safety leader is a lifelong learner. By being dedicated to learning from both on the job, direct employee feedback, and from structured workshops and classes, a safety leader is able to more effectively improve an organization’s safety program.
In the case of employee feedback, listening to the actual experiences of employees opens a direct line of communication with those most affected by the safety procedures currently in place. These are the same team members that will be the first to notice areas of improvement, so naturally, addressing the issues they raise will more effectively curb safety issues at the source, while providing employees with actualized examples that their voices are being heard. Knowing that the concerns being raised are actually being fielded and addressed will, in turn, increase employee engagement with safety procedures, and improve productivity in the process.
Formalized training is also necessary to continually develop strong safety leadership. By continuing to engage with training and classes, safety leaders are able to cement the foundational aspects of safety to pass along to their organizations, as well as stay apprised of updates to procedures and best practices. But it is important that safety leaders focus on both aspects of their role when seeking continued training: safety and leadership. Participating in courses and training that deal with leadership principals will provide skills that sharpen communication and empower safety leaders to more directly implement safety directives with higher degrees of adoption and success.
Support from Decision Makers
For a safety program to be successful, safety leaders need buy-in from the decision-makers within an organization. This means executives need to take the safety details and concerns raised by safety leaders seriously because ultimately, the example set by those at the top will be followed by the rest of the organization. When safety leaders feel supported by those at the head of an organization, the safety leaders will be more likely to reinforce the safety vision of the company, creating an environment conducive for improved employee morale, production, and mitigated risk.
Ensuring that safety leaders feel encouraged to share safety reports and audit findings with management, without risk of retaliation, is also vital. Additionally, it is imperative to provide positive feedback to reinforce established safety behaviors and communicate that all employees share responsibility for safety. One action employers can undertake to both encourage and provide feedback directly to safety leaders is drafting development plans with their leaders, as these plans will outline clear expectations and goals. This in turn helps align decision-makers and safety leaders on the path toward maintaining and improving safety programs, with metrics and milestones that can be reviewed.
Committing to the development of safety leaders is investing in the longevity of a business. It is placing trust in key individuals that will advocate for the wellbeing of employees, which is paid back in turn through continued increases in production and cost-savings. Both employers and employees benefit the most when workers are safe, secure, and happy, and developing strong safety leaders drives these gains.
Optimum Safety Management provides information and services to help companies develop safety leaders and improve overall safety performance. For more information on how Optimum Safety Management can assist with your businesses’ safety needs, contact an expert today, or reach out via phone at 630-759-9908.