Column: What Safety Leaders Must Do To Lead Safety Culture Effectively

In the last column, we looked at the are/know/do model of leadership (AKA be/know/do), which focuses on who you are as a leader, what you know as a leader, and what you do as a leader.

How does all this apply to improving safety culture? What’s required of safety leaders to build and drive the culture in more effective ways? What are they required to be; what’s important for them to know; and what should they do?

The Are/Know/Do's of Improving Safety Culture
There a many more things than we can reasonably cover in a single article that safety leaders must do to ensure they are improving safety culture, so we’ll focus on those things that are both essential and often neglected.

First and foremost, safety leaders must build relationships of trust with those who look to them for direction and guidance in safety. This is absolutely foundational to getting others on board a safety culture. If I’m not actively building trust with those whose safety I oversee, they won’t buy into my safety message, they won’t feel comfortable discussing their safety concerns with me, and I won’t be able to appeal to their core values to provide internal incentive for them to be safe on the job when I’m not around.

Second, to build that trust, I have to ensure that I express genuine care and concern about them and their safety. This has to be genuine—it’s not something I can fake and be convincing about it. Genuineness strikes at the core of who we are as safety leaders.

Third, I must actively engage people in safety situations and safety conversations. Some examples of this include how I communicate in my safety meetings, my toolbox talks, my one-on-ones, and my safety walkabouts. Are these conversations focused on meaningful dialogue around improving safety culture, or do they look more like check-box items to those I engage?

Fourth, I have to communicate and drive a safety culture. That means I can’t just passively sit on the sidelines and support it using a hands-off approach. Also, I have to watch how I am communicating it. 

Read the full column here.


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