You may be a safety manager or some other type of safety professional, but are you a safety leader? Now you may be wondering what the difference is. The best way we can think of to describe it is in the words of management consultant Kevin Burns:
“Safety management is a paid position. Safety leadership is voluntary - yet infinitely more rewarding” (source).
Kevin also explains that you don’t have to hold any kind of safety title in order to be a safety leader—a point that we’re quick to agree with. So what does it take to be a safety leader, exactly? Here’s your quick guide on how to become an awesome safety leader that your employees will want to follow.
Know the Rules
As with any position, the first thing you need to do is learn. Try to learn all of the company’s safety regulations, along with general best practices and industry standards. It’s nearly impossible to lead when you don’t know what you’re doing. This isn’t to say that you need to be a safety expert, but you do need a solid foundation. Being informed is a great first step toward becoming a part of your company’s safety culture.
Follow the Rules
What good is knowing the rules if you don’t use them? Your first priority is to make sure you follow the rules at all times regarding safety. The best way to prevent accidents and injuries is to uphold the standards that were literally designed for this purpose.
An indirect effect of this is that you set an example for everyone around you. Everyone else in your workplace will see that you are doing the right thing consistently, and that helps to reinforce a safety culture for everyone. Remember that you are always on display and that setting an example makes you an awesome safety leader.
Stop Unsafe Practices
It’s natural to want to cut corners sometimes. Maybe it’s too hot to wear all of that protective clothing or it just takes too much time to properly prepare for the quick job that needs to be done. But PPE can’t do its job if you’re not wearing it. You wouldn’t go skydiving without a parachute, so why would you step onto the worksite without all of your safety gear?
If you see someone without proper PPE or anyone doing things unsafely, it’s your job as a safety leader to speak up. One reckless worker makes an unsafe workplace for everyone. Report to management or intervene if you have the authority. A strong safety culture relies on the whole team working toward the same goals.
These three steps are the most basic foundations of being a safety leader. It’s important to keep in mind several points in addition to these:
You are always on display and setting an example.
Your safe practices affect everyone around you.
You can be a safety leader no matter what your job is.
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