What Makes a Good Safety Leader?
Prioritizing safety is essential to any workplace. Still, it can be difficult for management to monitor safety practices when they're juggling so many other administrative tasks. This is where a safety leader comes into play. A safety leader is an employee who works to prioritize and monitor safety standards. They ensure employees and management are aware of and dedicated to resolving the safety issues they encounter. Typically, safety leaders hold the title of a safety manager. But any employee can be a safety leader—it's the skills, not the title that makes a good safety leader! Below, we'll look at the skills and attributes a good safety leader needs so that you can determine if being a safety leader is something that interests you.
#1: Lead By ExampleThe first rule a good safety leader follows is that they lead by example. Your colleagues won't respect you if you preach the importance of safety, but blatantly disregard the practices you're encouraging them to follow. After all, the safety tips can't be that important if you don't follow them! As a safety leader, the people you work with will watch you very closely. So even if you don't work in the department you're visiting, ensure you're setting a good example and taking the appropriate safety measures. For example, if you observe the production line, make sure you wear the proper hearing and eye protection the rest of the production line employees wear. Also, if you bring other people with you, bring extra personal protective equipment for them to wear as well. As a safety leader, it's your responsibility to show everyone you take safety as seriously as you say you do.
#2: Maintain Open CommunicationA safety leader is a go-between for employees and management. So you need to maintain open communication channels with all parties. Safety leaders are responsible for informing management about safety issues, as well as circulating new policies from management to employees. To keep communication channels open, frequently touch base with all parties and consider using email or paper updates to distribute important updates that everyone should be aware of.
#3: Enforce AccountabilityNobody likes a runaround. When it comes to safety, not only are they inconvenient, but they can also be dangerous. When something goes wrong, a safety leader needs to address both the consequences and the cause. The last thing the company needs is finger-pointing without a resolution. Safety leaders are responsible for maintaining accountability for all parties involved. Accountability will encourage employees and management to trust that you have their best interests at heart and that you're not trying to sweep any issues under the rug. When employees know there is going to be a resolution, they're more likely to bring hazards and other issues to your attention—which will continue to make the workplace a safer place.
#4: Have a Regular PresenceEffective safety managers don't spend their days secluded in an office all day. They're out on the floor working with peers and employees to understand safety issues. Safety leaders should also double-check that their advice is being followed. Additionally, they should look for ways to improve their safety training program, so it is more applicable to the hazards employees face. Anyone can watch a video about hazards employees commonly face. However, a good safety leader has a deep understanding of both the employees and the industry they work in. You cannot substitute real-world knowledge with textbook knowledge. You'll be a much more effective leader if you spend time learning the trade and naturally come to understand the associated dangers.
#5: Maintain FriendlinessPeople will not approach you with concerns if you come across as harsh, abrasive, or untrustworthy. You need to maintain friendliness with the people you work with, even if it's only surface-level politeness. Being friendly with the people you work with will assist you as a safety leader in several ways:
- People will feel comfortable approaching you with hazards they've witnessed
- Employees will heed your instructions and advice
- People will believe you have their best interests at heart
#6: Simplify SafetyDon't make things complicated! Jobs can be hard enough without having to worry that every little detail is perfect and meets safety standards. As a safety leader, focus on the most impactful safety issues and simplify the minor details. People will be more likely to remember what they're supposed to do if it's only three steps, as opposed to ten. Sometimes you won't be able to omit necessary safety precautions, but you can work with your team to ensure they have a grasp on proper procedures. It's your job to tailor the safety program to fit the needs of fellow employees. You might have success with posting extra signage, coming up with acronyms, and ensuring personal protective equipment is easily accessible.
#7: Involve EmployeesAlthough you're a leader, you don't want to spend your days continually instructing employees on best practices. You'll be much more successful if your employees feel involved and invested in the safety program. Ideas to involve employees include:
- Reward positive behavior and program participation
- Listen to feedback and program suggestions
- Provide easily accessible ways for employees to report hazards or good behavior
#8: Stay OrganizedIf you couldn't already tell from this list, safety leaders are busy people. They need to stay organized to create a successful safety program. Your to-do list needs to include many activities, such as:
- Regular training
- Floor walkthroughs
- Employee engagement
- Management briefings