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Front-line supervisors are a versatile resource for organizations. As the closest level of management on the ground with employees, front-line supervisors play key roles in observing, reporting, and championing safety information, in addition to their other managerial duties. By reinforcing safe working practices with employees, and providing guidance on areas that need improvement to upper management, front-line supervisors act as invaluable bridges between the upper and lower levels of an organization. In this role, supervisors shuttle important safety information in both directions, positioning themselves as the foundation for a successful safety program.
Because of their unique access to both employees and management, supervisors are key team members to ensure employee participation in an organization’s safety program, for addressing employee concerns, and for advocating for safe working conditions. This is what makes front-line supervisors the most valued employees for an organization’s safety goals.
First Line of Leadership
Front-line supervisors are the employees with the most direct knowledge of what is actually happening at the ground level of an organization. If production or manufacturing work is being conducted in an unsafe manner, front-line supervisors will have the first opportunity to catch issues as they happen, and thus, they have the first chance to address and correct these issues. As observers, leaders, problem-solvers, and record-keepers, the front-line supervisors have access to data and details about each of their direct reports, the timelines for projects, and how project tasks are completed. Access to this information provides supervisors with the precise knowledge of where most safety concerns arise, which issues are most important to their employees, and which safety issues are most common.
For a safety program to be successful, the level of detailed knowledge that front-line supervisors have is indispensable. What these specific employees know provides insight on which safety knowledge areas require updates and further training immediately, as well as how well these updates address safety concerns after implementation. If new safety issues arise, supervisors will be the first to hear about them, and be the first to compile data to pass along to the rest of the organization — such as the safety leadership team and upper management — when issues require greater attention.
To best prepare them for success in their roles, it’s important that supervisors have the leadership training necessary to establish strong safety knowledge and direction. Additionally, it’s important that supervisors have the support of open and direct lines of communications with their employees, upper management, and safety leadership.
When supervisors know that the information, data, and safety concerns they present brings about serious action from an organization’s stake holders — such as additional workshops, trainings, or updates to the safety program for employees — it reinforces the supervisor’s willingness to both stay on top of safety concerns, and work with their employees to be mindful of safety. More than anything else, it shows supervisors that the job they’re doing is important, and that the organization as a whole cares about them, and their direct-reports.
The term “influencer” has cultivated a bad reputation in pop culture, but as a concept, it has significant merit. In essence, an influencer is anyone who has gained enough respect to create a “cult of personality”, or in other words, such an intense and devoted following that many will replicate what the influencer does out of admiration. When new safety directives or trainings are being rolled out, the way supervisors act as influencers for their employees will be one of an organization’s greatest assets. This is because, generally, employees take their cues on company culture — and for the best way to complete their tasks — from their supervisors. If a company is laid-back, and supervisors are flippant or dismissive of safety rules and regulations, employees will be as well. If a company is organized and attentive, and supervisors conduct their business by the book, following a routine, employees will take note and fall in line.
Because front-line supervisors hold such an indelible influence over employee behavior, it’s important that supervisors receive the proper safety leadership training early on, to guide the impressions supervisors will pass on to their employees. By investing in training up front, organizations are able to both provide their supervisors with the necessary knowledge to act as leaders, as well as clearly establish the safety goals the organization expects supervisors to champion, drawing a road map for safety program success that everyone can follow.
With the ability to influence employee focus on safety, and serving as a direct pipeline between upper management’s goals and employee action, the important role front-line supervisors play in an organization’s safety program and safety leadership team cannot be overstated. By focusing on the value of front-line supervisor’s insights into day-to-day operations, and utilizing their unique access to pertinent data, an organization can increase employee participation, continually improve safe working conditions, and hit important safety KPIs with greater precision.
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.