Kevin Burns, Calgary-based safety speaker

PeopleWork BlogStrategies To Build Personal Leadership In Safety

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3 Key Safety Responsibilities for Employees

Posted by Kevin Burns

Oct 18, 2017 9:30:00 AM

Every employee has responsibilities in safety. The biggest of which is to ensure that you protect yourself.

There is a lot of talk of safety leadership, complacency, accountability and responsibility on the job these days. At the same time, there is less discussion about compliance measures, rules, regulation, etc. And although there is still much work to be done in safety, we’re starting to change the conversation. Workplaces that are becoming more people-focused is good news.

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Topics: safety leadership, kevin burns, safety culture, safety accountability, positive safety,, safety commitment, safety engagement, peoplework, accelerate safety, safety responsibility

Top 3 Strategies To Be More Effective in Safety

Posted by Kevin Burns

Oct 11, 2017 9:30:00 AM

Effectiveness in safety is about how little effort it takes to inspire people to do the right things.

As a safety person, manager or front-line supervisor, you already know that your work can be thankless. But you still have a responsibility (see last week’s post) to drive down the best practices and advice onto those employees at the front-line. That’s where the greatest number of your people are. That’s where the greatest amount of activity is. That’s where the greatest risk of incident exists. What you know about safety needs to get to the front-line.

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Topics: safety speaker, safety leadership, safety management, safety supervisor, safety effectiveness, peoplework, accelerate safety

How Safety Leaders Define Accountability and Responsibility

Posted by Kevin Burns

Oct 4, 2017 9:30:00 AM

Safety is a shared responsibility with each individual being accountable for their actions.

On a recent LinkedIn post about accountability, I was asked the following:

Hi Kevin, I'm constantly engaged in discussions around accountability and responsibility with all levels of hierarchy within the business as almost no one understands the difference. What's your experience?

Awesome question. I too, used to think they were two interchangeable words. In fact, the dictionaries interchange them at least once on each word. So, it's not surprising that your clients and colleagues struggle with it. But to me, they are not interchangeable at all. In fact, each word has very specific differentiators.

This post will help you to arm your colleagues, employees and clients with a new and unique way to understand accountability and responsibility, to use them more effectively, and to be able to align themselves with each word personally and within the scope of the safety program.

Be forewarned, these definitions may not be the classic dictionary version of the words. 

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Topics: safety speaker, safety leadership, kevin burns, safety management, safety consulting, safety accountability, peoplework, safety responsibility

4 Ways To Make Safety Positive

Posted by Kevin Burns

Sep 27, 2017 9:30:00 AM

Stop discussing the negatives of not being safe. Instead, focus on the positives of buying-in to safety.

Ask employees about how they perceive the safety program and they will most likely answer that it's dull, boring, repetitive, mind-numbing, disengaging, and it tries to scare you into compliance. That's because safety has been focused on following rules and avoiding injury or accidents. But like everything else in life, safety evolves.

Sure, there is still an expectation of meeting the minimum standards of safety. But, that's the least that the law will allow you to do. If the focus is to achieve the minimum standard, you are chasing compliance - the standard that you are not allowed to fall below. And when safety programs are focused only on achieving the minimum, that's where the organization will live.

As organizations are becoming more people-centric, they are integrating people-development programs. You cannot develop your people without including safety. The best-managed companies and employers-of-choice still value a profit but not at the expense of their good people. They are organizations that attract the best employees and hang onto them. As I say regularly, the best place to work is always the safest place to work.

The best employees are attracted to workplaces that focus on achieving positives, more than just avoiding negatives. The best workplaces have a plan to make the experience of working there a positive one. 

Here are the four most important ways to focus your safety program on positives:

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Topics: safety speaker, safety leadership, kevin burns, safety, safety buy-in, safety marketing, safety compliance, safety incidents, selling safety, positive safety,, peoplework

4 Things Employees Need Most from Safety

Posted by Kevin Burns

Sep 20, 2017 9:30:00 AM

Data is not how you build a safety culture. Leadership is.

Safety is about preparedness - yet most times even the safety meeting does not meet that standard. How many times have you seen your own safety meetings get thrown together at the last minute? This does not inspire confidence from employees. If the organizer is not engaged in delivering an engaging safety meeting, attendees won't engage either. Why would they?

Employees take their cues, not so much from what you say in meetings, but from what you do with them and your level of conviction about safety. As motivational speaker, Larry Winget, once said: "When you stand in front of a group of people, they won't care what you have to say. In fact most won't even believe what you have to say. But they'll be checking you out to see if you believe what you have to say."

In other words, you need conviction when it comes to organizing and executing the safety program - especially the meetings. If you don't have convictions about both the value of the program outside of the rules (the content and discussion points) and the purpose (the outcome - what you want them to do with the information), you will have a hard time getting employees to engage.

If you want to engage employees to participate in the safety program and to own safety as one of their guiding principles, you have to give them what they want.

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Topics: safety speaker, safety leadership, kevin burns, safety meeting, safety management, safety buy-in, safety manager, peoplework, accelerate safety

4 Ways to Use Safety to Build Teamwork

Posted by Kevin Burns

Sep 13, 2017 9:30:00 AM

Leadership is not forced or thrust upon anyone. It’s voluntary. And personal safety leadership builds great teams.

A commitment to teamwork and safety. It’s all you need to go from newbie or lowly front-liner to leader. To become a safety leader requires a commitment to the welfare of your teammates. You can't build a strong team without caring about the safety of the members of the team. In this way, you can use safety build leadership in safety and teamwork. 

While it might be easy enough (with applied work) to lift yourself up from the front-line to leader in the real world, the safety world hasn't been terribly well-equipped for it. It has been focused on compliance, following rules and filling out paperwork; all treated very scientifically and meticulously.

Historically, it’s been all business. Add a top-down model of management and you have a system that doesn’t look particularly attractive to want to buy-in to. Where's the teamwork? you might ask. While the focus in on processes and procedures and rules, there is little of the “person” in personal safety.


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Topics: safety speaker, safety attitude, safety leadership, kevin burns, safety meeting, safety buy-in, safety marketing, safety compliance, safety motivation, peoplework, safety teamwork

3 Reasons Safety Leaders Fail

Posted by Kevin Burns

Sep 6, 2017 9:30:00 PM

To be a safety leader, you have to be better at the job than the others.

The best organizations give world-class safety performance. They don't do it with a mediocre effort, mediocre standards or mediocre supervisors and safety people. They do it by surpassing industry average targets, a focused engagement with employees and with safety people and supervisors on top of their game. Those companies search out and employ supervisors and managers who set a higher standard for themselves. They seek out those who want to inspire their own crews to be better, to reach farther, to achieve at a higher level.

You don’t build championship teams by shooting for the middle of industry averages. You don’t instill a positive safety culture by settling for average performance. To lead, you have to do not just what others are not doing, but by doing what they’re not even prepared to do.

World-class safety is driven by wanting higher standards. Higher standards drive greater effort. Greater effort is driven by higher-performing safety people and supervisors. World-class safety is not achieved by a mediocre effort, standards or people who don’t seek to be exceptional. Without exceptional people and standards, you're shooting for mediocrity. You will become world-class by luck.

Here's the problem. Not every safety person is a high-performer. Like every other industry and profession, there are below-average and average performers. Then, there’s the top echelon; the elite - the leaders. Which of those sounds like you? How about a short self-assessment?

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Topics: safety speaker, safety leadership, kevin burns, safety culture, safety compliance, safety communications, positive safety,, peoplework, accelerate safety

4 Things You Must Talk About In Safety Meetings

Posted by Kevin Burns

Aug 30, 2017 9:30:00 AM

When people engage in these four things at your safety meeting, they will buy-in to safety.

Safety meetings started out as a legal requirement. You had to have them, they had to be recorded and the subject matter had to satisfy the Code. But nowhere does it state that you can’t add items to the safety meeting or that you can’t have fun and to speak-up in the meetings.

Companies buy templates for their safety meetings that are white-bread and innocuous because they’ve been dumbed-down to appeal to as many industries as possible. But generic safety meetings that talk about safety reports, inspections, incident reports, processes, procedures and protocols while numbing the mind with text-laden PowerPoint slides don’t build safety buy-in.

Employees don’t buy-in to the safety program because it is presented as a set of rules and policies. Employees resist anyone who appears to want to force them to comply. And it's tough for employees to warm up to someone who incessantly talks about procedures, processes, inspections and incidents. (Sure, it's important but not engaging in a conversational way). When your safety meetings are a re-hash of everything they've already heard on PPE, driving, lockouts and slips-trips-falls, you're going to lose their attention - and desire to want to warm up to safety.

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Topics: safety attitude, safety leadership, kevin burns, safety meeting, safety, safety buy-in, positive safety,, peoplework

Top 4 Strategies to Stop Safety Complacency Creep

Posted by Kevin Burns

Aug 23, 2017 9:30:00 AM

Safety complacency is addressed at the ultra-local level; at the front-line. That’s where the complacency takes place. That’s where it gets fixed.

Who could have ever foreseen that you could get so good at your work that complacency would become a safety issue? Safety processes and procedures are done so well that your crews have become exceptional safety performers. And because they do work they can be proud of, they take satisfaction in how well they do the job. That satisfaction can create complacency.

It’s not your fault that you never saw it coming. You followed the processes and procedures, the rules and regulation so well that you got into the habit of always doing it well. They are not negative habits. They are the same positive habits that are creating a safety risk.

Consulting and speaking clients have discussed complacency-creep with me. They gush about their people, competent teams who do excellent work. But, niggling issues are starting to show up in the form of small mistakes, and memory and judgment lapses. They are afraid that the small issues have the potential to become more serious. That’s complacency-creep sneaking in.

The longer crews work on the job together, the more they get into a kind of rhythm working together. But that rhythm can become a routine. And where there is routine, there is rote: doing the job robotically. “Auto-pilot.”

Complacency is not something that is fixed or repaired or even addressed at the senior management level. Complacency is addressed at the ultra-local level; at the front-line between supervisor and employee. That’s where the complacency takes place. That’s where it gets fixed.

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Topics: safety speaker, safety leadership, kevin burns, safety marketing, safety communications, peoplework, safety complacency

6 Ways To Become A Respected Safety Leader

Posted by Kevin Burns

Aug 16, 2017 9:30:00 AM

As a safety leader, more doors open, more options are available and the longer you are likely to live.

My Blog post, Safety Cop Or Safety Leader got a lot of traffic and created much discussion. Some safety people found themselves inadvertently standing on the wrong side of the conversation. But, as Dr. Phil says, you can’t fix what you don’t acknowledge.

To become a safety leader, you have to first understand what safety leadership is not: it is not safety management. Since there is no requirement to be in management to be a leader, then it only makes sense that you don’t have to be in safety management to be a safety leader.

Safety leadership is not just for those with a title. Safety leaders can be found on the front-lines too. They are willing to coach and inspire better safety performance through mosty, their example. You see, being a leader starts with being willing to go first. The first person to do something is the leader. Everyone else follows. But to go from safety person to safety leader, requires a mindset shift. 

So with that in mind, let's explore six mindset shifts that can cause you to become a better safety leader:

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Topics: safety speaker, safety attitude, safety leadership, kevin burns, safety, safety management, safety buy-in, peoplework, safety mindset

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