Raising Safety Leadership and Action Mindsets

Anyone can be a leader in safety. Safety leadership is not about the attributes of an individual but about their behaviors.

Have you ever seen the Seinfeld episode, “The Little Kicks?” In this episode, Kramer and Jerry are walking down the street and since Jerry is closer to the street, Kramer tells him he shouldn’t walk there. Kramer tells him it’s the most dangerous part of the sidewalk. “Cab hops a curb, wap! You’ve had your last egg sandwich… ”
Jerry responds with, “No, cab’s comin’ in right here. Set of plastic hips, prosthetic legs, and a monkey to answer the door, I’m back in business.”

Must be nice to have a friend like Kramer watching out for those sharp and dangerous curbs, right?

What if you could have safety leaders – with good attitudes – in every department to watch out for your employees?

Safety leaders set the standard of safe behavior used in the workplace. They tell you when to watch out for cabs and put up boundaries to protect you.

But the best safety procedures are worthless unless all workers at every level are exercising leadership skills echoing the ‘right way’.

Leading by example influences employees’ perception of the way the workplace should be managed. Great safety leaders follow the guidelines set in place and ensure they’re practicing what they preach.

Leadership is more than tackling safety protocols – it’s about a mindset. Leadership motivates change and sees it through.

Warren Bennis, also known as “the dean of leadership” by Forbes magazine, wrote a book called On Becoming a Leader. In this book he elaborated on great qualities that define leadership roles and presented strategies on how to apply them. On Becoming a Leader is filled with quotes full of wisdom, including, “Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” If you want to be a safety leader, you need to turn your vision into reality.

But don’t think someone needs to have a zillion attributes to lead your coworkers to a safer mindset (take Kramer for instance). Leadership is not about a specific degree or a high position within the company – it’s about your behavior. Any person in your organization can be a safety leader if they choose to be.

Safety leaders exhibit a variety of behaviors that motivate others by:

  • Being an example by knowing and obeying the rules;
  • Dodging complacency for the dangers of the job;
  • Reporting safety hazards, violations, and incidents;
  • Maintaining open communication with coworkers and management about safety concerns.

OSHA developed key 5-STARS of safety supervision and leadership and broke down some key attributes such as:

  1. Supervision – overseeing work activities to make sure employees are safe.
  2. Training – conducting safety education and training.
  3. Accountability – insisting everyone complies with company safety policies and rules.
  4. Resources – providing physical resources (tools, equipment, materials, etc.) so employees can work safely.
  5. Support – creating a supportive, psychosocial work environment (schedules, workloads, recognition, etc.) so employees do not work under undue stress.

Sustaining an injury-free workplace requires trust and commitment among coworkers. Set an example yourself, and seek out the people who can lead others to a safer work environment.

Make your message bold enough to create a safety mindset at your business. Workplace safety posters are one tool to help you build and reinforce your safety culture.