5 Reasons The Old Safety Cop Is Doomed

Trying to run a safety program on rules enforcement is meeting with stiff opposition. Today’s worker has no appetite for being constricted by rules.

doomed2Safety is at a crossroads; where the old safety cop is being forced to give way to the new safety leader. It's a bit of a bumpy ride right now but one that we will be over in a few years. Safety leaders will emerge to begin coaching better safety performance from their teams. Safety cops in future will have a tough time finding work. The market is changing and so are the players.

This year (2015), finds that over 75% of the North American workforce is either over the age of 50 or under the age of 30:

  • Millennials (Generation Y - under age 32), comprise 45% of the total workforce.
  • Baby Boomers (over age 50) make up only 31% of the market. And Boomers are retiring in droves.
  • As Generation X (21%) moves into the more senior positions of influence, they are siding more with the Millennials. Gen X understands them better.

Neither Gen X or Millennials were raised on strict and hard rules. They were raised on choices. Everything was a choice growing up. There is no question that this model of child-rearing was far from perfect. But it led to empowering the child to make good decisions. So, now trying to run a safety program on rules enforcement is meeting with stiff opposition. Today’s worker has no appetite for archaic management practices like rules enforcement.

The marketplace is now crossing the chasm between the old safety cop and the new safety leader. Here are 5 reasons why the old safety cop is doomed:

1They use intimidation to get compliance - not buy-in. Scare tactics, threat of injury, pencil-whipping consequences and admonishments. They are all intimidation. It's the same as a cop pointing a radar gun at your car. Even if you’re not speeding, you doubt yourself for a moment. It’s intimidation. And it’s counter-productive to building strong safety cultures. You don’t build a safety culture by forcing people to comply against their will. You build a culture of safety by being inclusive, making sure their voices are heard and recognized.

2The majority of today’s workers were raised on Oprah. Today’s new worker is more emotional and caring and empathetic. This week, a 19-year-old singer won at $10,000 talent show prize at the Calgary Stampede. He immediately gave it all away to help the homeless. These are your new generation of workers. They are good people who don’t take rules enforcement well. These new workers don’t care that you know the safety rules. They care that you care about them.

3Young workers don’t want to be told what to do. They want to be trained in what to do and then allowed to do it. They want to be praised for doing it right not condemned for not doing it exactly the safety manager’s way. They want to exercise creativity and choice and options. This is the same group of workers who played organized sports that didn’t keep score. The same whose grades removed percentages in favor of grading on a curve. No one gets left behind. There is already a strong teamwork component with today’s young workers.

4Old safety cops have no schooling in modern-day management skills. Safety performance depends on not just on enforcing rules. Safety performance depends on the quality of the safety personnel on the ground and those in the front office. It starts with the quality of employees hired by HR. Then, the training of that worker. Finally, how that worker is coached to achieve optimum performance. Without management training, you are going to find it difficult to stay in your current roles or to be able to find new work.

5Safety managers and supervisors don’t just manage the safety program. They manage the people within the safety program. There is very different mindset required for this position. Sure, it’s necessary to be certified in safety. But more importantly, you MUST have management skills development. This is non-negotiable for the future of safety. Safety people without formal instruction in management skills will be considered a safety administrator. That’s a data-entry position. Learn how to manage people before you try to manage people within a safety program.

7 Nuts n Bolts Strategies for Safety Communications Truthfully, if rules enforcement worked, you’d be at Zero always. But you’re not. The reason is because the missing component isn’t rules and procedures. The missing component is the ability to effectively communicate with people. To do that, you’re going to have to put down the rule-book and have some honest conversations. That takes people skills - like every good manager should have. Safety cops who rely on enforcement are doomed.

Kevin Burns is a management consultant, safety speaker and author of "The Perfect Safety Meeting" and his newest #1 Amazon Health & Safety Bestseller, "Running With Scissors - 10 Reasons To Invest in Safety In Slow Times." He is an expert in how to get through to people - how to talk with them so they hear and understand. Kevin's presentation "Trust The Process - Instill A Safety Attitude To Build An Engaged Culture Of Safety" will help your organization reach the following goals: better engagement and buy-in to safety, increased teamwork, better communication, lower turnover resulting in increased profits from production. Click here for more information and to discuss your needs with Kevin.

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Topics: safety leadership, safety culture, safety compliance, young worker safety