The Most Influential Person in Safety Is Not Who You Think

We have the best people and the best safety processes more than ever, so you have to wonder why we are still hurting people?

For 50 years, safety has been promoted as being all about rules, processes, regulations, paperwork, inspections, reporting. We’ve organized a lot of meetings, and talked far too much about rules, and we’ve endured death by Powerpoint, and tried to get traction on the cutesy slogans, and tired, worn-out clichés. Oh, sure we've developed some new technology but mostly to make it easier to pencil-whip checklists and file reports. There’s not much that has been developed to make safety more engaging, and inspiring, and motivating.

When it’s boring, it’s hard to connect to safety. And, more processes and procedures heaped on people who aren’t listening, who aren’t engaged, is never going to work. No matter how many meetings you hold or how many posters you put up in your workplace.

We need to change the conversation and make safety a movement and a cause.

We've been approaching safety as a way to achieve the minimum legislation. Not as a program that rallies employees to rise to a common cause. We’ve never used Safety to create a movement of looking out for each other. But we should. Because rules don’t motivate, people do.

Good supervisors create the environment for safety culture to grow in their own crews. When front-line supervisors buy into safety, they willingly take on their role in keeping the workplace safe. When the crews and employees themselves begin to focus on embracing safety as the way they do business, the need for safety officers and advisers disappears.

7 Truths Supervisors and Safety People Need to Know Think about it.

If your people are willingly taking on safety themselves, and are engaging in safety themselves, and are embracing safety as one of their personal values and guiding principles, do they need to be told by an advisor to follow safety rules?

The supervisor has the potential to become the most influential person on a work crew.

Supervisors create the crew culture. They inspire their people to follow safety. They are best positioned to hold safety together. If we are going to improve safety, we have to improve the people who have the greatest influence at the local level where the incidents are occurring: the supervisor.

Improve the supervisor and you improve the conditions where the work takes place.


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Kevin Burns is a management consultant, safety speaker 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. Kevin helps organizations align their people, leadership, communication and safety in order to improve performance and culture.

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Topics: safety meeting, safety culture, peoplework, safety complacency