3 Strategies To Be A Better Safety Coach

Don’t waste your one-on-one time with your people enforcing rules.

I’ll let you in on a little secret. When employees buy-in to safety, you don’t need to police them anymore. Where you once spent a great deal of time on enforcement, you can now replace with coaching and mentoring. Trust me when I say, coaching and mentoring is infinitely more satisfying.

It’s no fun being the coach of a struggling team. Morale is down. The players are frustrated. Tempers get out of control. Infighting can take place. And certainly, fingers get pointed. And the coaches push their players hard to follow the systems, instead of improving the individual player performance.

But, when you’re the coach of a championship team, your time is spent looking to fine-tune the team’s performance. You’re not dealing with personality conflicts, or frustration or anger. You’re working with a team instead of working against it. You enjoy your job much more than the coach of the struggling team. It’s more fun to be on top.

So, as a supervisor, manager or safety person, you want to help your players get past the “struggle” part of safety as quickly as possible, so you can come together in a championship team mindset. But before the team can improve, the coach has to improve.

Here are the first three steps in being a better coach in safety:

1Gain their trust. It should be no surprise that people buy-in to the safety leader long before they ever buy-in to the safety program. Your people need to be able to trust you before they are ever going to trust what you’re saying. (I wrote about this in The Two Sales of Safety Marketing in Chapter 7 of PeopleWork: The Human Touch in Workplace Safety).

Trust makes the difference in a crew. Trust is one of the biggest reasons why good supervisors, even in a tough culture, can keep their good people - and those supervisors who haven’t gained that level of trust continue to turn over their staff. In a leadership position, you have two choices: you can be feared, or you can be trusted. But you can’t be both. Simply put, people don’t trust those they fear. People don’t fear those they trust. You had better get busy earning trust. The best way to do that is to be a decent person who looks out for their people.

2Show your people that you care. Do you think your people feel your passion for safety when you cut and paste snippets from the OH&S code and put them up on bullet-point riddled PowerPoint slides? Or that you show them gruesome Internet photos of dismemberment? Or that you spent 3 hours preparing charts and graphs of numbers only the safety department fully understands? No, they can’t because you’re phoning it in. You’re cutting and pasting and Google-searching your safety program. You don’t care enough to have a heart-to-heart talk about safety. You hide behind your slides and your charts so you don’t have to engage in a safety in a meaningful way. So why should they, your good people, engage in safety in a meaningful way?

Stop presenting and, instead, make them feel something. Oh sure, those gruesome photos and stories you downloaded from the Internet make people feel something. But it’s the wrong kind of feeling. Safety shouldn’t make you feel sick to your stomach. Safety should make your feel prepared and confident. Safety should make you feel like your supervisor or safety person has your back. Safety should make you feel like you’re all looking out for each other. Your people will care about their safety and each other when they know, first, how much you care about them – and that you care enough to not take the lazy road of Google photo searches and cut-and-paste safety laws on slides. You’re better than that. Prove it.

3Go one-on-one. The best coaches make time for their players every day. It’s the most important thing they do. Teams don’t get better unless the individual effort of each team member improves. The individuals get better when each team member, individually, gets time with the coach. Your job as a crew leader, supervisor, manager or safety person is to take each player aside each day and give them guidance and inspiration to want to be better. Don’t waste your one-on-one time with your people enforcing rules. Explain the rule and coach their performance within the rule. Do you get that? It’s not the rule you need to focus on but the performance and the technique they use within that rule.

Buy a copy for each member of your team! Every single person on your crew deserves your attention even for a moment at least once a day. If you won’t invest in them, how are they supposed to pay off? How are they supposed to improve if the coach doesn’t spend time with them? Truth is, if your true intent is to help your people get better at what they do, they will want to spend some one-on-one time with you. You’re the person who values them and wants them to be even better and they will want to play better for you.

The Authentic Leader

As a crew leader, or supervisor, or manager, or safety person, your job isn’t a role. It’s not a part you’re playing in a community theatre production. This is real-life starring real people. So be the same person that your kids look up to. Be that decent, caring, engaging person you are in real-life. Take that to work. Because, it’s going to take the best from you to get the best from them.


Learn more strategies to create a high-participation safety culture. Put Kevin Burns' expertise to work in your organization. Whether it's for a one-day safety event or training/facilitation session, or perhaps Kevin's 90-Day Safety Accelerator program and the High-Participation Safety Culture Shift program. There is a program that can work for you, your front-line crews, your management team, your safety committee and your supervisors.

Kevin Burns is a management consultant, speaker/facilitator and author of PeopleWork: The Human Touch in Workplace Safety. Kevin's M4 Method™ will guide you to engage your people better in safety. The best place to work is always the safest place to work.

Get details and more information http://www.kevburns.com/contact

Topics: safety speaker, safety leadership, kevin burns, safety meeting, selling safety, safety communications, peoplework, safety complacency