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What Drives Your Safety Culture?

- December 27, 2017 by Keith Schmedes (View all posts by Keith)

What drives your safety culture? On second thought, as I ask this question, the proper question should be who drives your safety culture? Without a doubt there is a component of improving the culture of safety within an organization to be sure, such as accountability for safety being shared at all levels of the organization. The “who” however is the paramount question.

The primary group that drives your safety culture is your supervisors. There are several reasons why – first and foremost is the fact that your workers listen to and get direction from their supervisor. He or she is in charge of their day-to-day operations and as such, commands respect. Safety personnel will have their ability to influence worker’s safety will either be inhibited or enhanced by the supervisor.  Ultimately, your supervisor will have more of an impact on safety performance than the best safety manager.

Another reason for your supervisors being the key in driving your safety culture is that when it is a choice between production and safety, it will be your supervisor that makes the choice. Top management must incorporate safety into the supervisor’s performance requirements, otherwise, your supervisors will tie their compensation only to production and not to safety. They will see safety at the safety department job only.

Supervisors should also be the ones providing discipline. Discipline should be:

    • Tied to the employee’s behavior, not the outcome
    • Based on facts, not emotions
    • Consistent throughout the company
    • Applied only after it’s determined that management met its obligations to the employee
    • Proportional to the severity of the infraction and impact on the company

    Supervisors are safety leaders. Supervisors are responsible for safe execution of the work they supervise and conduct of their crew. The safety of all the workers under their supervision should be equal to production goals. Leadership is not about power. A good leader leads by example, and that includes your supervisors.

    For more information, check out Leslie’s blog on making safety as important as your production outcomes.