A Safety Leadership Quiz: How Well Do You Stack Up?
By Josh Williams, Ph.D.
Previous blogs have addressed numerous ways leaders need to “show up” for safety. Unfortunately, leaders sometimes inadvertently encourage at-risk behavior by failing to praise safe behaviors, ignoring at-risk behaviors, over-emphasizing production, and modeling risky behaviors. Here’s a quick summary:
Fail to reinforce a safe behavior - Managers and Supervisors may fail to praise safe behaviors because they don’t notice them, don’t want to take time to address them, or because they think it’s unwarranted ( “That’s what they get paid for.” ). However, praise increases the likelihood employees will continue to operate safely even though it takes longer or is inconvenient. It also makes them feel better about the organization. This praise should be sincere and given when employees go beyond the call of duty for safety.
Fail to coach an at-risk behavior - Managers and Supervisors may fail to coach at-risk behavior because they don’t want to interfere with production goals or confront employees. They also may consider the risk inconsequential, especially if employees go long periods of time taking risks and not getting hurt. Unfortunately, failure to coach risky behavior implies acceptance and greatly increases the likelihood that employees will take shortcuts and get hurt.
Reinforce production more than safety - Managers and Supervisors may reinforce production more than safety because they believe that’s what they get paid and promoted for. This minimizes the importance of safety and increases the likelihood of safety shortcuts and injuries.
Model at-risk behaviors - Managers and Supervisors may model risky behaviors themselves because they’re unaware of the risk, they’ve developed risky habits, or they don’t think others will notice or care. When this happens, it sends the message that safety isn’t that important and increases the chances employees will take similar risks in the future.
Here are some guidelines for leaders to follow to demonstrate their support for safety:
• Emphasize safety as much as production and quality, both formally (e.g., meetings) and informally.
• Always consider safety when making organizational decisions.
• Communicate the importance of safety as frequently as possible.
• Recognize that a failure to “walk the talk” for safety leads to employee resentment and apathy for safety.
• Advertise safety improvements and successes.
• Hold supervisors accountable for balancing safety and production demands.
• Increase personal visibility on the floor to discuss safety (and other) issues with employees.
• Institutionalize employee input (e.g., safety suggestion programs) for safety.
• Ensure identified safety hazards are corrected quickly.
• Focus on proactive safety efforts not just injury outcome statistics.
Safety Leadership Quiz
Here’s a quick quiz to self-evaluate how you’re doing as a safety leaders. For the following items, rate your response from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree) that best describes your agreement with the following behaviors you should be doing to improve workplace safety. Add up your numbers to get your final score. Scores above 85 are exceptional and scores below 60 are problematic. Also, items receiving ratings of “1” or “2” need special attention.
1. Regularly praise employees for especially safe behaviors. _____
2. Provide employees respectful, corrective feedback for at-risk behaviors. _____
3. Model safe work behaviors. _____
4. Emphasize safety as much as production. _____
5. Advertise safety improvements and successes. _____
6. Work to ensure supervisors are supporting safety. _____
7. Solicit employee input for safety issues. _____
8. Respond to employee safety concerns quickly and effectively. _____
9. Focus on proactive safety efforts. _____
10. Don’t overemphasize safety outcome statistics. _____
11. Supplement safety graphs with testimonials. _____
12. Conduct safety culture assessments to evaluate safety culture. _____
13. Track safety culture improvement. _____
14. Advertise safety culture improvements. _____
15. Work to increase employee involvement in safety. _____
16. Provide employees small tokens of appreciation for safety efforts. _____
17. Avoid fear-based tactics and punishment to motivate employees for safety. _____
18. Spend time interacting with employees. _____
19. Treat employees with respect and dignity. _____
20. Communicate safety issues with passion and enthusiasm. _____