Leading Safety Through a Pandemic


It’s no secret we’re navigating a challenging time this year – both personally and in our organizations. The outbreak of a global pandemic has forced us to walk into unprecedented circumstances. As an employer, you are likely overwhelmed by the uncertainty and constant pressure to make decisions. From new procedures to paid leave, there is no shortage of difficult decisions and new challenges.

It’s during times like this, executives are pressed to “grow their leadership” and lead the organization through the situation. Everyday our team at Optimum Safety teaches executives and supervisors the principles of leadership for safety and while this time is unprecedented, the principles withstand. The application may look different, but the principles are the same.

Our team has compiled this short list of leadership principles and advice to help you lead safety through a pandemic.

Leadership Principles to Remember

Maintain Focus

In his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey says “the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” During this time of chaos, confusion and a never-ending amount of information, the most important thing is to maintain focus and keep our priorities alive. Refusing to become a victim of chaos is easier said than done, but if we let our strategies fall by the wayside now, it will be incredibly difficult to recover and come back to those strategies later.

When it comes to safety, if we let go of the strategic plan, it sends a signal to employees that our objectives for safety are not important enough to maintain. It may even be viewed as optional – something that’s nice to emphasize when things are going well but can be cast aside when times get tough.

In reality it should be the exact opposite. Times of crisis emphasize the need for a high performing culture of safety production. That brings us to the next principle…

Safety Doesn’t Stop During a Crisis

Just because there are more immediate concerns doesn’t mean the other exposures in our workplaces are on pause. In fact, exposures will likely become higher as employees are more distracted and managers are consumed by the pressure. Employees across the workforce may be coming to the facility or construction site having gained little rest the night before and carrying the looming thought of their family’s security. These pressures all produce an environment where exposures are heightened.

This is not the time to let safety procedures, conversations and continuous improvement actions fall to the wayside. This is an opportunity to build your organization’s safety culture now more than ever.

Along with conversations around protective measures for contracting the virus, include discussion on the exposures that come with fatigue, distraction, and production pressures. Ignoring these exposures doesn’t help anyone. Addressing them head-on makes room for improvements.

Look Forward to the Future

The reality is this will not last forever. At some point, our world will recover, and business will continue. Our role as leaders is to gain a vision of this future state and encourage our teams to work towards that vision. John Maxwell, author and leadership expert, frequently says “leaders see more than others do and see before others see.” To lead our organizations to success, we must be able to pick our heads up out of the noise and see beyond the current circumstances.  In other words, we must be prepared to manage the organization past the current state.

Employees will be looking to the executive leaders for answers and a vision of the future. What type of vision are you casting for your organization?

Times of crisis provide opportunities for leaders to rise up and emphasize what’s important. The true culture of your organization will come out during this time and this is a time to set vision for the type of culture you truly desire. Let’s be leaders who encourage a culture where the well-being of every employee is paramount.

For help designing, improving or implementing a pandemic plan for your organization, please reach out to Info@Optimum-USA.com or call 630.759.9908 to speak with a member of our team. You don’t need to lead safety through a pandemic on your own.