Do This One Thing to Make People Care About Safety

If you want people to care about safety, you have to first care about them.

I was working with a group of minesite supervisors and we were discussing the needs of employees and how a supervisor can make sure that employee needs were being met. I asked this question: how can you show your employees that, as supervisors, you care?

Here are some of the responses:

  • Give good communication
  • Improve your listening skills
  • Be respectful of their needs
  • Demonstrate persistence
  • Engage them in problem-solving
  • Recognize employees for their good work
  • Take a time-out with employees
  • Help employees to re-focus
  • Show support for your people especially when they need it.

All good answers. In fact, a lot of necessary answers. But the answer that wasn’t mentioned was, perhaps, too obvious. It is the one thing that supervisors, managers, safety people, executives, and even fellow workers must do to show their fellow employees that they care.

That one thing is ... to care.

Why do we miss the obvious answer?

It seems far too obvious. And that’s probably why it gets overlooked. Without genuinely caring about your people, everything on the list above is going to seem disingenuous. It's going to seem contrived: lip service.

Meanwhile, your people are looking for permission to care. They want to be allowed to care about their work. They want permission to care about the people they work with. And, yes, they do want to be able to care about safely doing their job. In order to get that, they want permission from their supervisors; not by words, but by actions.

Your people can tell when you genuinely care. You can tell when they don’t care so why wouldn’t they be able to tell whether or not their supervisor cares about them? They can tell, make no mistake.

What happens if it appears supervisors don't care?

When employees don’t feel that their supervisor cares about them, they reciprocate and don’t care about much either. They don't care about the job. They don't care about the people they work with. And, if they don’t care much about the job or the people they work with, you are never going to get them to care about safety.

Workplace surveys ask employees what they want from work and their supervisors. Always near the top of the list is having someone who cares about what they do. People want the work to mean something. People are willing to invest themselves in safely doing work that means something.

If you want people to care about safety, you have to first care about them.

7 Truths Supervisors and Safety People Need to Know You cannot fake caring. People can tell. You have to genuinely care about your people. Because when you do, they will care about the work they do, the people they do it with and they will care about doing it safely.

Learn more strategies to improve 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 One-Year 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. He is an expert in how to engage people in safety and believes that the best place to work is always the safest place to work.

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Topics: safety speaker, safety leadership, safety culture, safety communications, peoplework, safety complacency