In our most recent GroundBreak Carolinas article, entitled “Your Safety Manual Isn’t Enough,” we discussed the importance of moving your business’ corporate safety policy beyond a written manual. In order for your company to truly succeed in the safety realm, you must have a collection of efforts, policies, and strategies that work together to keep your team safe. This structured and organized means of achieving and maintaining a high level of safety is called a Safety Management System (SMS). We previously identified the National Safety Council’s Nine Elements as a summary of common SMS components. In today’s article, we will look into the National Safety Council’s first identified element, “Management Leadership and Commitment.”
There are a million books on leadership which outline various ways to guide a team; the one commonality they all require is sincerity. No matter the method, all managers must truly believe their message and stand wholeheartedly behind their words. Employees can easily distinguish between empty statements and genuine care, and will only place value upon the latter. It is the responsibility of management to not only preach its commitment to safety, but also demonstrate that commitment through actions. By wearing PPE on site, listening to safety concerns, and publicly praising safety conscious employees, leaders exhibit that safety is at the heart of the organization. A truly great manager knows it is his/her responsibility to ensure the safety of every individual on site. These leaders value safety above all else and display their commitment daily.
The clearest way to show commitment to safety is the establishment of strict guidelines and accountability. When management enforces safety accountability at all level of the organization (from top level leaders to entry level employees), it helps the team understand that safety is the everyone’s responsibility. An example of this accountability chain would be groundmen completing a daily Activity Hazard Analysis, foremen discussing the AHA with their team, superintendents reviewing the document for concerns, and managers ensuring the correct number of AHAs are completed each month. These responsibilities should be tied to both company-wide and employee-specific goals. When determining goals, managers must recognize the importance of proactive goals as opposed to reactive measurement (lagging indicators). It is always better to study what the company is doing now rather than numbers generated off of last year’s efforts. Rather than studying your EMR, OSHA record, and inspection findings (lagging indicators), managers should look at the frequency of Job Safety Observations and the quality of their training. Reactive indicators help managers identify specific areas for improvement and thus create appropriate accountability chains.
While the concept of management leadership and commitment is high level, it is the result of daily devotion to safety efforts. By clearly expressing the importance of safety to their teams (both verbally and through their actions), managers create environments centered around safety. This environment becomes instilled in employees, engrained in work tasks, and incorporated into all corporate decisions. This message is further stressed by having safety responsibilities for all levels of the company and consistently holding employees accountable for personal and corporate safety goals. When management takes charge of the safety process, employees understand disobeying safety protocols means disobeying their bosses. It is amazing how quickly that mentality transforms a safety culture.
ESR’s Tim Neubauer and Julia Kunlo work with clients to develop customized safety solutions that result in regulatory compliance, reduced incident rates, improved quality, and ultimately increased profits. To learn more about Evolution Safety Resources, visit http://evolutionsafetyresources.com/. Be sure to check out ESR’s LinkedIn and Facebook pages.