Coaching is the art of facilitating the performance, learning and development of another person through support, observation, feedback and accountability.
In the context of a behavior-based safety program, an effective safety coach will express support for the safe behaviors they observe and offer useful and caring feedback regarding at-risk behaviors observed. The coach will then share the observations with the employees involved, who will analyze the information and come up with strategies and procedures to prevent that behavior in the future and make the workplace safer.
The safety coaching process has been successful in many companies because, although it can be time-consuming to implement, it is one of the most effective ways to affect a company's safety culture, and in turn, change employees' attitudes towards safety.
The following are ten tips to setting up an effective behavior-based safety coaching program.
- Don't just teach employees how to do something, teach them why it's important. This is critical to get full engagement in the process.
- Empower employees as owners of the process. When they are engaged in setting safety rules, they are more likely to comply with them than rules imposed from above.
- Provide opportunities for choice by providing structure and direction, but allowing employees to choose some aspects of the procedure to be followed.
- Management should be actively involved in the process. Showing that management values the coaching initiative motivates employees to participate.
- Avoid negative or punitive consequences. Focus on recognizing what employees do right.
- The Safety Coach should use non-directive communication techniques. A good safety coach focuses on the behavior, not the person, and is careful when giving feedback.
- Transition from announced to unannounced observations. In the early stages, employees will be expecting observations and on their best behavior. Eventually, you will want to start doing "surprise" observations so you can collect more accurate data as to the behavior that is actually occurring.
- Focus on interaction, not just numbers. Data is valuable, but don't become over-analytical. What's most important in developing a safe culture is the process of interpersonal observation and feedback.
- Continuous improvement. As you implement the program, you will want to make on going refinements based on results. Safety perception surveys can be a valuable tool for assessing employee's feelings about your company's safety culture.
- Set up a program to mentor potential safety coaches from within employee ranks. Part of a safety leader's job is to develop additional safety leaders and coaches.