As a term, it is almost deceptively simple, but safety leadership as a concept is greater than the sum of its parts. At the core, the idea of safety leadership is straightforward enough — a reliable collective of motivated individuals who continuously promote and drive employees to meet and exceed collective organizational safety goals. Taking a step back to take in the larger picture, the questions begin to come into focus — who is qualified to be a “safety leader”? How do safety leaders measure safety goals? What can safety leadership do to get through to every employee?
These questions round out what safety leadership truly means, and defines how it works within the larger structure of an organization. Answering these questions will help creative an effective safety leadership that upholds the safety guidelines and, ultimately, makes a business function better.
Leadership vs Management
The most common misconception is that safety leadership is made up solely of upper management or executives. In truth, safety leaders are the individuals with the greatest understanding of the importance of safety, and who have the ability to inspire and communicate with their fellow employees. Additionally, a safety leadership team will be most effective when made up of a multi-disciplinary unit, touching as many departments and roles as possible. Recruiting from across departments gives the leadership members a more clear picture of how safety directly touches each aspect of the organization, and will allow them to provide a more informed logic for safety guidelines and improvements.
That said, safety leadership is neither devoid of management, either. Buy-in from management and the decision makers is imperative for creating a safety leadership team that is successful and constructive. Encouraging and embracing safety leadership is a major boon for a business, as it will ultimately create a workforce that, through improved safety, is more efficient, more productive, and all-around more positive. To this end, it is important for management to work closely with safety leadership to ensure they have the resources and encouragement to continuously improve on safety goals and safety monitoring for the organization.
Measuring and Communicating
Now that it is understood who can be a safety leader, let’s explore what safety leadership does. Collectively, safety leadership helps define how best to measure safety goals. This means coming to a common ground on an established set of metrics that can be tracked and shared with the relevant parties to determine performance. Numbers and charts alone will not dictate employees’ engagement toward achieving safety goals, though.
That additional level of understanding also requires safety leadership to develop and advocate for a means of employee feedback, to allow the leaders to find in-roads to communicate efficiently with co-workers on a personal level — to understand where each individual is seeing successes in safety procedures, and how best to provide improvement in other areas. These are key aspects of highly effective safety leaders: defining and measuring safety goals and focusing on the well-being of co-workers by treating them as people, not numbers.
The Ultimate Goal
The finish line for safety leadership is difficult, because it is undefined, but this is by design. Ultimately, the purpose of safety leadership is to continue improving upon the safety goals of the organization. When this works best, it is presented as positive reinforcement to employees and co-workers, but it does not have a defined end. An organization is more of a living organism than a static system, and to that end, safety leadership is put in place to help keep that organism living. By establishing a strong, supported, structurally-diverse safety leadership team, an organization is ensuring that it will continue to grow, evolve, and thrive.
Optimum Safety Management provides the information and services to help companies develop safety leaders and improve overall safety performance. For more information on how Optimum Safety Management can assist with your businesses’ safety needs, contact an expert today, or reach out via phone at 630-759-9908.