The Difference Between Managing Safety and Being a Safety Leader

construction team at project site

 

An organization needs leadership to drive great performance in all areas.

Leaders are critically necessary to help define safety goals, develop implementation procedures, and ensure compliance for the company’s safety programs. Most importantly, a safety leader must consistently motivate other employees to effectively mitigate safety risks. In this edition of the safety blog, we’ll explore the difference between managing safety versus being a safety leader.

Safety Leaders Versus Managers

Safety leaders are the team leads that others rely upon, to consistently meet the safety goals of the organization.

Managers are part of the organization’ hierarchy and have defined responsibilities for their segment of the business to include the standard supervisor role with respect to subordinates.

Leadership means “to influence followers” – and this does not necessarily mean the department manager. A leader is able to influence the activity of the team in a way that ensures safety goals are met as a team.  A manager can certainly be a leader for safety, but the primary distinction is leaders influence the team to voluntarily recognize and fulfill their role in the company’s safety program.

The OSHA Safety Model

safety leaders at work siteThe Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has a defined model that outlines the key objectives for safety leadership, regardless of the leader’s role in the company. The OSHA STARS model describes the requirements for safety leadership:

Supervision: overseeing work activities to make sure employees are safe

Training: conducting safety education and training

Accountability: insisting that everyone complies with company safety policies and rules

Resources: providing physical resources – tools, equipment, materials – so employees can work safely

Support: creating a supportive psycho-social work environment – schedules, workloads, recognition – so employees do not work under undue stress

The model starts with supervision to ensure employees are safe, but this is does not necessarily mean direct supervision by management.

A key function of safety leader is to ensure safety procedures are followed on the job and workers are safe. A review of the remaining components of the model provide the necessary requirements of a safety leader.

These are important attributes of safety leadership and do not always require performance by a member of the management team. A leader that emerges from the team of workers from the shop floor, or job site, provides a valuable connection to the operational team.

This connection can provide the daily influence to maintain safety procedures and avoid accidents.

Leadership Characteristics

safety leader at job siteAs stated above, leadership does not always mean a manager or supervisor. It does require individuals with the leadership ability to influence the rest of the team in meeting the goals of the safety program.

A key characteristic for safety leadership is the real commitment to help people stay safe. This genuine concern, along with the ability to inspire others to follow safety steps, is vastly different than a management commands to follow the rules.

This is an important distinction and one that more often leads to consistent safety results at the job site.

In Summary

Regardless of the specific role in the company, a leader is able to influence the activity of the team. A manager can certainly be a leader for safety, but the primary distinction is leaders influence the team to voluntarily fulfill the required safety procedures. The voluntary aspect is an important distinction that leads to consistent safety results.

Contact us today to find out more about our services at Advanced Consulting & Training. We are a safety training leader in Ontario, helping organizations large and small become safety leaders themselves.