Leadership and Workplace Safety

 Audio Podcast available at the bottom of this post or on itunes.
[leadplayer_vid id=”51A1B43970226″]
Leadership in safety is critical to drive workplace safety improvement and we’ve talked previously about this under the blog called workplace safety model.

  • 0:17 Who are the leaders?
  • 0:37 The story of the senior manager
  • 1:29 His Eureka moment!
  • 2:55 What you can do


“…leadership is key to improving safety” – Tony – Click to Tweet

When we say leadership, of course I mean the people in the organisaiton that can drive change. Very few people have more influence than the supervisors. These people set the tone within the business. An supervisors will take their lead from Senior Management.

I remember a story about a safety performance company in the US who were brought in to a large to assess the attitudes and culture within a large American business, and they noticed an unusual result that kept being reported about one senior leader. He was a high performer in all the safety performance areas relating to attitude, midset, communication, walking the talk and so on.  This was really unusual and the safety company had worked with many large organsiations like NASA and never saw these results. And eventually they came to interview this guy and asked him, why are you so focused on safety. What makes you outstanding?

This manager replied for years he had been a plant manager and knew when he got a call at 2 in the morning, it was not good news. And if it was an incident with an employee, he’d act appropriately and do his best by that person. However, his twin daughters had just left home to go to University, when the phone rang at 2 in the morning. As a parent, his first thoughts while running for the phone were his daughters. What has happened to them. His was struck with relief when he found it was someone at his plant who had suffered a serious injury on the job. And he was struck with a massive conflict of feelings. Relief that his daughters were safe. Guilt that he was happy it was someone else injured. And then it hit him emotionally this injury just happened on his watch, and that other families were going to get that phone call he dreaded.

Using leadership throughout a business to enhance OSH

Right then there was a massive mind-set change.  He made a pledge to himself. For this injured person and from them on, he treated people as family despite the protests of PR or the Legal teams (remember we are talking about the US) and went out of his way to help them get back to work and fix the problems.

So, how does that help you? If you’re trying to work out how to improve your workplace safety, then I’d start by talking to the head of the business, the director or CEO, and find out where they sit with respect to safety. Obviously not everyone will have the type of experience I just described, nor do you want those to happen in order to get your boss engaged. What I suggest you can do is book a time to chat with the boss of your company, and do a stock take. What is her knowledge and attitudes to safety; Does she manage for compliance reasons, increase profits or are their some emotional motivators.

Know where you sit and what are her hot buttons because once she turns on and applies leadership to workplace safety, then you can focus on the other leaders and everything will become so much easier to lift the safety performance in your workplace.