All companies want to provide safe working environments and create strong safety cultures. But if so, why are some considerably more effective in this sphere than others? Why are some organisations able to create high performance safety cultures, while others struggle in this space?
It often comes down to the quality of safety leadership.
What does good safety leadership look like?
A high performance safety culture is one where every team member demonstrates positive safety behaviours, and where safety is embedded into every aspect of the organisation and its operations. It is also one where safety is about much more than just policies and procedures, and is rather created as a result of the way in which every individual in the organisation engages with safety.
Effective safety leaders create and drive such a safety culture in a number of ways:
- they adopt a collaborative approach to safety that in turn builds ownership and engagement
- they create an environment where positive safety behaviours are endorsed and enacted by all
- they identify workplace behaviours that increase risk, and address them through training, education and positive reinforcement
- they understand not only their own capabilities but also the extent to which their own behaviours impact on the overall safety culture
In addition, effective safety leaders also understand that organisations of all types develop and evolve constantly. Therefore, they appreciate the need to undertake constant review and reflection, not just with regard to operational safety matters or the company’s SMS, but also in respect of their own capabilities and behaviours as well.
However, in considering the role and value of safety leaders, it is important to remember that they don’t just appear by accident — rather, management has a responsibility to identify potential leaders and provide them with safety leadership development and training in order to maximise their capacities and potential. This sort of specialised leadership training helps safety leaders to develop the traits they need to become the embodiment of an organisation’s safety culture.
The benefits of effective safety leadership
One of the most tangible benefits of effective safety leadership is the direct and measurable impact it has on workplace injury rates and overall safety performance. This is largely because effective leaders, through their own demonstration of safety behaviours and high expectations of others, can have a significant impact on the safety performance of the entire workforce. Such high levels of engagement are key to creating a safety culture which successfully reduces the potential for workplace accidents — as well as the associated liabilities and worker’s compensation claims.
Additionally, when an organisation has a high-performance safety culture which engages the workforce and provides a demonstrably safe environment in which to work, there is less absenteeism through illness and injury, as well as greater workforce participation and satisfaction, and these, in turn, lead to greater productivity levels. Any organisation that demonstrates respect for its workforce through proactively addressing and reviewing safety, and where there is clear and discernible safety leadership, is likely to benefit from increased commitment levels from all of its workforce.