Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Become a Safety Leader: We're All Players on the Field, Not Bench Warmers!

Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Become a Safety Leader: We're All Players on the Field, Not Bench Warmers!

Article excerpt


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.

Supervisors and employees believe management wants them to get product out the door at all costs: production, production, production. Management believes they have successfully communicated the expectation to produce products safely and have empowered team members to become safety leaders. In many cases, this gap between management expectations and employee perception develops into placing blame instead of growing leadership abilities.

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.

When it comes to safety, the customers are our fellow employees and we need to learn how to serve them just as we serve our external customers. When you produce a product or service for an external customer, the goal typically is to produce a high-quality, low-cost widget on time. When dealing with internal customers, there is no difference. In safety, the common goal is going home uninjured and it takes an entire team of safety leaders to achieve it.

Talk Safety

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.

One-Liner--We need to work together to reach our common safety goal. Can I count on you to work in a safe manner?

Elevator Speech--We are coming off a strong year where the team has done an excellent job watching out for each other and reducing accidents. The road is long, but with everyone's help and support we can reach our safety goals. Let's make good choices and stay safe! Everyone goes home unhurt to his or her family here!

Your personal one-liner and elevator speech makes sure safety is on your mind and can be communicated consistently and positively to other team members even on short notice.

Talk positively about safety at every opportunity, serving others by showing your support for the common goal of going home uninjured. …

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