Back in January, we presented an article, “How would you grade your safety leader?”  We listed the attributes that we felt described good leaders – ones that led by example.  A great President and leader, Dwight Eisenhower said, “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.”  If you want to see real safety improvements, you need to motivate your team to want to be safe – even when no one is looking.  You must add leadership to your safety training. 

Although some people are born leaders, the rest of us can learn from them and gain leadership skills through the right training.  We have now completed the first five months of 2011, and have you wondered, how is our training program progressing?  Safety is learned through both training and experience.  A goal that everyone should live with, is “Nobody Gets Hurt.”  This must be the mantra of every company, being committed to rigorous safety programs that ensure that every worker is motivated to work safely so they can go home to their families every day, without injury. 

Safety leaders must have the safety of every worker in mind, which is sometimes a hard task.  Here are some goals for good leaders:

  1. Communication.  Learn all you can about your style of communication and how it affects others.  Do you have a positive reaction from those around you?  A course in interpersonal skills can help.  Being able to accurately convey your thoughts and ideas to those working for you is a key element of leadership.  Remember, your employees are not mind-readers; they have to understand exactly what you are wanting.  When you communicate well, employees can give good feedback to you.  Be sure you present the complete “big picture.”
  2. Teamwork.  Become a part of the team.  Encourage employees to make certain decisions without you, so you can exhibit your trust in them.  Great leaders can accomplish great things, and show appreciation to the people who made those things happen.
  3. Motivation.  Do not try to give instructions through intimidation: “If you mess up, something bad will happen.”  This can cause much resentment, and little success with the job.  Rather, challenge them with an assignment that is just a tad bit out of their range and let them try.  If it hits a snag, coach them back until the situation becomes right.
  4. Appreciation.  It’s always better to give someone a pat on the back.  A little bit of praise for a job well done, goes a long way.
  5. Organization.  Leaders must be able to organize teams and motivate them toward the goal: A Zero-Injury Workplace!  Wouldn’t it be great if the whole team led each other to meeting that goal? 

Some workers still may not completely understand.  They sometimes take chances with safety, and may endanger other workers.  Most workers assume that their workplace is free of hazards.  These unrecognized expectations can lead to job frustration, substandard safety performance, decreased job safety commitment and even high turnover.  This is the time that leaders must learn what expectations the individuals have and work with them to meet and adjust those expectations.  For leaders, being rigorous about workplace safety is not an easy job, but it is very rewarding.  Leadership means looking for workplace hazards, not leaving it up to the safety department.  First , looking for any hazards and starting the day with a short group safety meeting might just remind everyone to work safely, so they can go home at the end of their shift.  It’s a two-way street, however, with each worker meeting the safety leader half-way.

Thanks to all the safety leaders in the workforce!  Let’s hope that the remainder of 2011 will be a “safe workplace” year!