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Inspiring Safety Leadership in Frontline Supervisors: Part One

- November 21, 2016 by Brian Piñon, CSP (View all posts by Brian)

One of the most impactful things a business owner can do to elevate their culture of safety is to inspire safety leadership from their frontline supervisors. The value your supervisors bring to the business is their ability to lead others in achieving productivity. Most often this skill set is focused primarily on production, as it should be.

However, when managing safety is not a priority for a leader, it affects the culture of all those who work under their leadership. Due to their frequency of interaction with workers and the authority they have been given, there is no one else in a more strategic position to influence worker behaviors and drive culture change. In this two-part blog series I will discuss strategies for inspiring front line managers to make safety a priority and effectively manage your risk.

You Cannot Effectively Manage a Risk You Do Not Understand

Far too often I find that supervisors do not have a comprehensive understanding of how workplace injuries impact the business. Many believe that workers’ comp insurance takes care of injury costs, leaving the business minimally affected. 

Do your supervisors understand the actual costs of lost productivity, or how the frequency and severity of workers’ comp claims can drastically affect premium rates? Training your supervisors on the reality of the direct and indirect costs associated with an accident, will give them a greater appreciation for your risk.

Empowering Action with Awareness

In addition to cost, it is vital that supervisors have a clear understanding of the key injury risk factors within the operation. This can be achieved by having a routine meeting to review and discuss injury trends and possible causes. It is also of great value to review injury data for your industry; which your ICW Risk Management Consultant can help you with.

Understanding where and how accidents are tending to occur will enable supervisors to identify and address root causes. For example, I recently reviewed a claims analysis with a customer, and we discovered that 60% of their claims were for workers with less than 6 months on the job. After thinking about it, my client was not shocked by this number. Having never been presented with the information, they had never made a conscious effort to address the issue. Awareness must come before action. 

Unfortunately, a mere awareness of the risk is not enough to inspire safety leadership. There is one more obstacle that must be overcome:

Leaders will not lead unless they believe they personally can make an impact.

This will be the focus of part two in this blog series on inspiring safety leadership from your frontline supervisors.