Isaac Newton said, “Truth is ever to be found in simplicity, and not in the multiplicity and confusion of things.”
It is difficult to keep safety simple when we are constantly looking over the horizon for the next thing that will improve safety. Someone is fatally injured, and suddenly everyone becomes a passionate safety professional. In many cases, some of the most devout safety professionals in the world decided on a career in safety because of the death of a coworker, friend, or family member. The reaction sometimes can be positive to a safety culture, but it may also have unintended consequences.
When a big push comes from the top to review rules and regulations that are widely known, it makes the rank and file sigh and say, “Not again.” A Safety Stand Down is scheduled to get attention so that rules and regulations are followed as if everyone intentionally breaks rules. Don’t get me wrong, I make my living speaking at many of these events and believe they are important. But truth is that in 17 years of work in industry and another 27 years of consulting (Yes, 44 years! Wow, time flies when you’re having fun!), I can safely say I have yet to meet anyone who intentionally broke a rule or regulation with the plan of getting hurt. What I have found is another reason that workers do follow rules and regulations: leadership.
What Is a Leader?
Leaders who have a relationship with their workforce are usually seen to have a crew who follow the rules and regulations. They are the crew members who sit on the front row of the safety meeting and don’t hesitate to volunteer to participate in the safety committee that drives continuous improvement. Their leader has set the standard for safety and an expectation for not getting hurt by having a positive attitude toward safety, welcoming observations, knowing and following procedures, and consistently wearing the proper personal protective equipment (PPE). This leader is not prideful and boastful of their own ability, but of the ability of their crew.
How to Become a Leader
Leaders must create a safety culture in their crew by setting expectations. That expectation is not “Don’t get killed” or “Don’t get hurt;” it is an expectation to keep safety simple through good attitudes, following procedures, welcoming observations, and wearing proper PPE. And these are the things that the leader must exemplify in his or her own behavior. A leader must demonstrate that he or she cares more about the welfare of each crew member than the job itself.
This leader is worth his or her pay because he or she develops other leaders. In fact, with this person as the leader, when a visitor shows up on the job, any crew member can conduct the safety briefing and is not shy about taking on the position of leader.
Leaders who develop other leaders help their companies grow and prosper. The company’s best asset is the people who are willing to be held accountable, take responsibility, and develop trusting relationships. In this way, through leadership, the crew creates a workplace where it is difficult for anyone to get hurt.
About the Author:
Carl Potter is a certified safety professional and certified management consultant who writes, speaks, and consults with leaders who want to create a zero-injury workplace. Since 1992, he has worked across the United States and Canada with one purpose: to eliminate every workplace injury. For more information, contact: Nona Prather, (800) 259-6209, firstname.lastname@example.org