Leaders in the workplace bear much of the responsibility for employee safety.
Safety in the workplace begins at the top. Whether a leader is specifically assigned safety duties or directs a team in a more general capacity, he or she should be looking for opportunities to encourage good practices while keeping employees healthy and happy.
Managers both set the rules for their workers to follow and create a behavior example through their own attitude toward work practices. This ongoing influence makes it worthwhile to give safety training to leaders at various levels within companies, reminding them of their responsibilities and the potential they have to improve the workplace for everyone.
Safety Comes from the Top
Corporate leadership has many levels. Individuals at each part of this structure should have the safety of their employees in mind, according to a Safety + Heath report by consulting firm DEKRA.
When the personal values and priorities of executive leaders promote workers’ health and well-being, the company stands a better chance of delivering high marks in safety and satisfaction. The best executives, from this perspective, are people who don’t need to see the data indicating safety is a worthwhile investment. They simply know it’s better to run an operation where there’s a low risk of accidents occurring.
Once management supports safety preparedness as a business cornerstone, leaders throughout the company can get to work creating ideal conditions for their teams. DEKRA gave several suggestions about how to accomplish this task.
For instance, managers should make sure there are resources allocated to safety procedures, and appropriate training is available to employees at all levels. Furthermore, leaders in a safety-focused organization should excel at change management and continuous improvement, as optimal safety means implementing new systems and solutions frequently.
When businesses put in the time and effort to make these productive changes, their rates of injury will likely fall to impressive levels. DEKRA added that this reduced vulnerability to injury is a result of a good safety program, not an objective in itself. Managers who only think in terms of numbers may miss out on completing the fundamental work necessary to set up long-term systems that protect their employees from risk and make their environments more comfortable.
Knowledge Fuels Workplace Safety Improvement
Leaders committed to improving their teams’ workplace conditions shouldn’t make important decisions without essential information. Guessing about the key issues afflicting the workforce isn’t the analytical and effective approach needed to encourage lasting safety.
Contributing to EHS Today, UL EHS Sustainability Vice President Mark Ward recommended careful monitoring of risks, with either internal teams or third-party specialists tasked with assessing potential danger and suggesting improvements.
Ward added that information should be free to move up the corporate ladder, with high-ranking individuals able to react to the findings made by the assessment teams. From everyday practices to the physical layout of the work environment, some of the existing traits of a company may be exposed as risks. When this is the case, it’s up to managers to take decisive action and correct any imbalances they find.
From this more informed baseline, it’s time for leaders to commit to improvements. This may mean making investments in new technology to better track incidents and it should also include training, according to Ward. When workers aren’t properly educated in the best practices of workplace safety, risk will remain unnecessarily elevated. Leaders should be trained in the essential concepts of improving the workplace, and then ensure their teams receive their own important lessons.
Informed Leaders Can Make Better Decisions
Numerous types of safety courses are available on the training market, each focusing on a different role or topic. Companies searching for a way to boost their safety performance from the top down can specifically seek out content aimed at managers and general decision-makers. Some of these courses focus on teaching individuals how to command safety teams, while others are more general in scope, helping leaders shape their teams’ approaches to everyday tasks.
Leading an injury prevention initiative is a potential way to improve overall safety performance at a company, and there are courses targeting this specific kind of leadership. Other modules deal with the more technical aspects of taking responsibility for employee safety, such as keeping workplace accident statistics as required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Performing audits, inspiring others, recognizing and neutralizing hazards – these are all concepts leaders can receive training on.
There is a safety-related course for every job description and level of responsibility. Companies that find the right match for each of their positions, leaders included, are well-prepared to minimize their exposure to unnecessary injury or illness among the workforce. Employees look to their managers for direction and cues about the company’s practices and priorities. Those leaders should be aware of their responsibilities and prepared to contribute to an overall culture of health and safety.