In our Don’t be Deceived: Safety Leadership is NOT Safety Management article, we discuss how safety leadership differentiates from safety management; now, we will dive deeper into how to become a modern day safety leader.
At eCompliance’s Safety Leadership Conference, Dino Varas of Taro Pharmaceuticals Inc., gave us great insight into how to be a safety leader, not just a manager. Inspired by behavior based safety, Dino presented the following tips:
Dino’s first tip on how to be a modern day safety leader is simple: lead by example. In other words, if you want to inspire your workers to perform safe behaviors, then you, yourself, must first constantly and consistently be leading by example. Don’t just tell your workers what the safe behaviors are, show them! You can’t expect your workers to follow safe behaviors if you, the person responsible for enforcing them, are not demonstrating them on a daily basis. Therefore, to be a modern day safety leader, practice what you preach and show your workforce how to work safely.
The role of communication with regards to health and safety should never be underestimated, especially by a safety leader. Hosting regular safety meetings where your workers can gather to discuss pressing safety issues and reinforce safe behaviors can be a very effective tool for a safety leader. At these meetings, you need to communicate with your workers to make sure that they are not only familiar with safety protocols and procedures but that they truly comprehend them as well. This can be done by taking the time to follow up with any worker who seemed to not be paying attention during your safety meetings and asking them to reiterate what was discussed.
Another way communication is a useful tool for a modern day safety leader is by using constructive criticism rather than punishment to fix unsafe behaviors. Asking them why they are doing these things and taking the time to show them how to fix their unsafe behavior can often motivate the worker to continue safe behaviors beyond that specific scenario. Of course, extremely unsafe behaviors must be dealt with appropriately, especially if lives are at risk, but taking the time to talk through an unsafe behavior instead of resorting straight to punishment can help adjust the worker’s behavior in a constructive way that inspires them to become safe in all aspects of their work.
One of the most powerful metaphors Dino provided for how to be a modern day safety leader was that of being a coach or mentor. A coach’s responsibility is to teach and improve his/her players’ skills, to motivate the team to give 100% and be the best they can be. The exact same applies to a safety leader. You have to teach your workers how to behave safely, improve their behaviors to transform them from unsafe to safe ones and more than anything, you need to motivate your workers to be safe. Coach them! Teach them how to be safe.
Organize and make time for regular EHS activities, practices and drills. Inspiring and motivating is a much more powerful tool for promoting safety than policing. By motivating your workers to be safe, you inspire them to want to be safe, not just because they have to follow the rules.
As important as it is to correct poor behaviors, it is equally important to reward good behaviors. To be a modern day safety leader, you need to celebrate your workers who exemplify the safe behaviors you are teaching your workforce. By praising good behaviors, you not only inspire your other workers to also practice these safe behaviors but you also empower the safe worker to become a safety leader his/her self. Empowering your workers will be the most effective thing a modern day safety leader can do because by doing so, you turn your workers into safety leaders as well. Inspiring your workers to become safety leaders themselves will completely transform your workforce, remove unsafe behaviors, significantly reduce the risk of incidents and create a very positive safety culture.
eCompliance’s Safety Leadership Conference showcased many great presentations with fantastic information and discussions, but one of the main themes was how to be a modern day safety leader. The best way to achieve this moniker is to: lead by example, communicate regularly with your workforce, coach your workers and empower them to become safety leaders themselves.
Being a modern day safety leader means spending time on the jobsite and with employees, which can be difficult if you are buried under piles of administrative work. Employing cloud-based health and safety software can help alleviate the administrative burden and let you spend more time on the floor with your workers.