4 Ways to Use Safety to Build Teamwork

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

inspire.jpgA 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.


1Apply the infomercial strategy to safety. The marketing of safety has been aimed at loss, not at gain. That is to say, safety has historically been concentrating on wrapping its message around the potential of loss: loss of life, loss of a limb, loss of work and loss of business. But safety leadership really a focus on what you gain: more freedom, better reputation, a longer life and more opportunities to spread your wings. That’s how infomercials sell: “but wait, there’s more!” Even life insurance spends more time focused on what your family will gain and less time on the fact that they will lose a family member. What is beyond meeting minimum compliance? Look beyond the bare minimums and help the individual members of the team to buy-in to safety as something that provides benefit and makes their lives better.

2Focus on the positives in your safety communication. The safety message has to change. That means especially in the use of gruesome Internet photos of injury. Using "guilt as safety" isn't terribly effective long-term. We tend to associate ourselves with the positive aspects of what we do, what we get out of something. Stop trying to manipulate your people by scaring. If that tactic did work with any sort of sustainability, you could play a gruesome video for every student right out of high school and safety would never have to be discussed again. But people don't come to work to avoid a loss. They show up to get ahead. How can embracing safety help them get ahead?  Teams move forward better together. Keep the conversations and communications positive. Focus on the positives for the whole team. Make safety a positive experience.

3Motivation is key to safety success. Put it this way: an unmotivated crew is not much a team. And it isn't going to help build a better safety culture. You need motivated people who want to achieve in order to give your safety program and the team some momentum. Nothing builds motivation faster than achievement. Teams who achieve want to do it again - and more of it. Involve your people in solving the recurring issues and challenges in safety. Ask for their input. Start encouraging your people to come up with their own solutions to the safety issues. Start making safety a celebration. When teams can get great production and maintain a high-performing safety standard, they take great satisfaction in their work. Hold safety to a higher standard and expect your team to perform up to it. There is great teamwork and motivation required to stay "up" in safety.

4Change the tone at your safety meetings. Instead of being focused on meeting minimum standards at safety meetings, change the tone of the meetings. Get personal. Get positive. At your next safety meeting, get through the paperwork and inspections and incident reports quickly. Meet the minimum standard for your meetings early. Then use the balance of the meeting time to focus on helping your team to become safety leaders. Ask questions that force people to think outside of rules and regulations. Ask this question and open it up to a discussion: what is our personal gain for choosing safety? What’s in it for us? Take a lot of notes. Record every response. Get it all on paper. These answers will become the basis of your new safety teamwork initiative. And leave no one out. Great teams involve everyone.

10 Crucial Questions for Safety Managers

When there is no gain attached to safety, people have a hard time buying into it. You know what the potential losses are. But what are the gains of choosing safety? That is the question that you have to answer - that every employee has to answer - for themselves. It will be the rallying point for your team. It can become the tipping point when the whole team can determine “what’s in it for them?” That’s when safety stops being a thing they are forced to do and starts to become a thing the whole team wants to do. When people are wanting to do something, they are motivated to work together. Safety can be that thing that brings your team together to get even better production.

Kevin Burns has authored ten books on human performance and safety, including his most recent release, PeopleWork - The Human Touch in Workplace Safety. Buy it now on Amazon. Then, consider bringing Kevin's consulting expertise to your company or have him speak at a safety event.

©2017 ZeroSpeak Corporation and Kevin Burns.
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Topics: safety speaker, safety leadership, kevin burns, safety meeting, safety buy-in, safety marketing, peoplework