Harold McAlindon said, “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” As new leaders in safety begin working with organizations and seeing to the needs of employees everywhere, we should want to leave our own trail. We will embrace opportunities and strive to work our hardest every day. We will lead by example to develop professionally and educate others who are willing to learn. Let's start right now!
Our company recently sponsored a seminar entitled “Creating a Powerful Safety Culture.” The words chosen for the title were very deliberate. Powerful is having a strong effect on people’s feelings or thoughts. Safety refers to the control of recognized hazards to achieve an acceptable level of risk. Culture is a way of thinking, behaving, or working that exists in an organization. Do you see the connection? Do you believe such a thing could be possible in your organization? A powerful safety culture will not happen overnight, but with hard work andpractice — success is inevitable. This is not the time for keeping your head down and following the rules. This is a time to open your eyes, think outside the box, and lead. Here are a few tips inspired by Billy Arcement's "Creating a Powerful Safety Culture."
Staying Consistent — is one habit that will be a key to success. From site inspections to performance evaluations, safety leaders will encounter eclectic work environments filled with varying recognized hazards exposing workforces from all types of industries. Credibility is on the line and if we are not consistent with taking action and applying knowledge when a corrective measure is needed then we should quit while we are behind.
We must also stay consistent when it comes to acknowledging best practices. Employees everywhere need to be reminded when they are performing well. Get to know your people. Exercise caution as some personalities do not respond well to public praise. The moment we are inconsistent with our role as advisor and consul is when we lose control of our leadership towards a powerful safety culture.
The Interdependent Stage of Safety Culture Development — empowers employees everywhere to look out for each other’s safety. An organization’s workforce is comprised of individuals, and as a team, we work together throughout the day, the night, or sometimes both to get the job done. A key component in getting the job done and ensuring we return home to our families is a commitment to having each other’s back. When you see an unsafe act or find unsafe equipment, say something immediately. Make the decision to respond and stand firm in your convictions. When we work together to keep ourselves and others around us safer, then a powerful safety culture will start to take shape.
Mistakes are not a choice or a violation — however, a violation is a choice. Employees do not come to work with intentions on doing a poor job especially if it puts them at risk for injury or illness. As leaders in our organizations, we are responsible for conducting the necessary training our people need to do their jobs well. Guess what? Mistakes are going to happen. Dust yourself off, learn from them, and never forget. Every mistake is a learning opportunity. Review and discuss the circumstances with help from individuals with all sorts of expertise. Provide the necessary re-training that will avoid something worse than a mistake. Ignoring mistakes or improper handling of “close call” situations will be the biggest violation we could ever make for ourselves and our people.
Eye Contact — is equally important as the safety coaching, mentoring, and training that employees everywhere expect of us. Safety leaders need to be heard, but if we cannot communicate effectively then we cannot expect our audience to listen. One listening barrier is no eye contact. We need to overcome that barrier by establishing a rapport with our audience. Shy leaders should not be ashamed but would benefit greatly from professional development regarding public speaking. Know your material. Avoid reading slides or growing roots at the podium. Be animated and pause often for questions. Most importantly—look your audience in the eye. Avoid monotone lecturing and incorporate real-word applications and scenarios to drive your message home. If you have an effective communication strategy, then you can guarantee your message will not fall on deaf ears.
Find What Changed When a Problem Occurs — is how safety leaders can keep incident investigations simply stated. Incident investigations involve several moving parts including an investigative team whose goals are set on establishing ways to avoid a similar incident in the future. When the call comes, a safety leader must be ready to arrive on scene, assess the injured, and start the process of finding out what changed. An organization has processes and procedures set forth to get the job done. The change occurred within those processes or procedures. It is called a deviation from the norm. A problem may result with improper lockout/tagout, poorly maintained personal fall arrest systems, or lack of personal protective equipment. Whatever the problem may be—keep in mind—no change means no problem.
The Responsibility with Understanding — lies with the safety leader and not with the employee, for example, working inside a trench or on a scaffold. A safety leader is responsible for making sure that employees everywhere understand how to do their job safely. We should not assume that knowledge is known. From formal training to toolbox talks and from coaching to mentoring, employees are looking to safety leaders for guidance. Everyone learns something new every day. Even safety leaders are constantly learning because changes are being made from so many directions. We must accept those challenges without hesitation and engage the stakeholders’ hearts and minds to form a powerful safety culture.
Now, do you see the connection? There are no shortcuts to this culture. It will not magically appear out of thin air. Safety leaders should think of themselves as servant leaders meaning we see to the needs of others rather than ourselves. We help people reach their goals while keeping the bigger picture in mind. Employees everywhere need not only to feel safe but be safe at their workplace. They need to see their employer’s commitment for a safe organization. If you build it—they will come. Hard work, dedication, and a promise to do what is right is what we need right now. Harold McAlindon also said, “The quality of an organization can never exceed the quality of the minds that make it up.” It can be done. It must be done. It will be done.