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Safety Leadership

By Josh Williams, Ph.D. There are no shortcuts to safety culture improvement. However, if there was a safety culture improvement ‘hack’ it would be getting and using more employee input for safety. One of the best ways of doing this is through safety suggestions from front-line employees. This should be done both formally (e.g., peer checks, safety committees) and informally (1-1 conversations). Many of the best and most practical safety ideas come from front-line employees. Also, getting more employee input leads to better decision-making and increased front-line discretionary effort for safety. For example, at one manufacturing facility in Southwest Virginia, the safety

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By Josh Williams, Ph.D. Improving supervisory safety leadership is critical for safety culture advancement. And to be sure, being in a supervisory role is one of the toughest jobs in organizational settings. And one of the most important when it comes to safety. The term “where the rubber meets the road” is often applied to this level of leadership because supervisors carry out the vision and directives from senior leaders but also manage the difficult day-to-day challenges with front-line employees doing the work. For years, we have talked about the dangers of old-school leadership. Decades ago, the norm for field leaders was

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By Eduardo Lan I often hear clients complain about workers' lack of engagement. It is not uncommon to hear comments like, “we ask them for their feedback and opinions, but they hardly speak up,” “it's like pulling teeth” or “we are afraid to ask them because we´ll get a laundry list of complaints.” Never for a moment do they stop to consider that the problem with communication might have more to do with how they listen than with what workers say. There are many benefits to effective listening. According to the article “Are you Really Listening?”, “When leaders listen in focused, attentive,

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By Josh Williams, Ph.D. Organizational safety communication is a key litmus test for healthy (or unhealthy) safety cultures. The best organizations have ongoing, open feedback throughout the organization. Weaker organizations have one-way traffic with communications (not getting employee input), insufficient psychological safety, and disorganized messaging. It is common for us to meet with EHS leaders who will provide pages of safety improvements over the last few months. However, when we speak with field employees, many are unable to list a single improvement they’ve seen. The hard work of making changes was made but the (seemingly) easy task of advertising them was not.

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By Eduardo Lan Raising safety awareness is essential to getting frontline workers to work safely and speak up whenever they encounter an unsafe condition. It is also necessary to generate a strong safety culture where workers actively care for each other and warn their peers when they see them taking an unnecessary risk. However, this level of safety awareness does not usually come naturally to people. As I wrote in my recent blog post “Start With Your Why For Safety”, people aren’t born thinking safety is important. Thus, we need others, typically our leaders, to help us awaken to this importance. Unfortunately, many

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By Josh Williams, Ph.D. Effective safety training engages employees in safety efforts and improves workplace safety performance. Unfortunately, employees often complain that safety training is boring and repetitive. Effective leaders improve safety training by providing hands-on training (e.g., use actual fire extinguishers during fire safety training), bringing in dynamic guest speakers, hiring training consultants for special programs, and ensuring new employees receive all necessary training before working and more experienced employees get periodic refresher training. Also, webinars are an increasingly cost-effective and convenient way to conduct training. This is especially true during COVID re-entry. Computer-based training programs are also increasingly used. However,

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