Course 113 Introduction to Safety Leadership

Safety guides and audits to make your job as a safety professional easier

Leadership in Action

Now that we have a better idea what leadership really is, let's discuss what managers, supervisors, and employees can do to demonstrates personal leadership at work. Remember, leadership isn't demonstrated with words: it requires action - doing something.

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Allocate serious resources: time and money to safety.

Leaders Demonstrate Commitment

Commitment to safety is more than mere support for safety. Serious commitment requires serious time and money. Support may be expressed, over and over, but unless management devotes serious time and money to safety, it's not commitment.

Leaders can demonstrate a strong commitment to safety by taking the following actions.

  • Write a policy stating safety is a central core value—get rid of the "safety first" messages and replace them with "safety only" messages.
  • Fully fund and devote time to safety training, PPE, and other safety programs.
  • Reinforce management commitment by considering safety and health in all business. decisions
  • Be visible and set an example by following the same safety procedures workers follow.
  • Include safety topics in business meetings.

Leaders Define Safety Goals and Objectives

Leaders establish long-term goals and specific objectives. anagement sets expectations for managers, supervisors, and workers and for the program overall. The goals and objectives should focus on specific actions that will improve workplace safety and health. Click on the button to learn more about the actions leaders take to establish goals and objectives.

Leaders can establish safety goals and objectives by taking the following actions.

  • Establish realistic goals that emphasize injury and illness prevention rather than injury and illness rates.
  • Develop specific operational objectives that describe how safety and health goals will be measured and achieved.
  • Assign tasks and responsibilities to people, set time frames, and determine resource needs.
  • Integrate goals, objectives, and related assignments into an overall strategic safety and health plan.

1. Management may express support, over and over, but real commitment requires that management _____.

a. uses the word "commitment" when they talk with employees
b. devotes serious time and money to safety
c. explains why safety is important
d. promises to make good on their commitments

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Leaders Allocate Resources

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Leadership is expressed by commitment to safety.

Leaders can demonstrate a strong commitment to providing physical and psychosocial resources by taking the following actions.

  • Estimate and provide funding for the resources needed to establish and implement the program.
  • Allow time in workers' schedules for them to fully participate in the program.
  • Integrate safety and health into planning and budgeting processes, and align budgets with program needs.
  • Provide and direct resources to operate the program, meet safety and health commitments, and pursue program goals.

Leaders Expect Performance

We mentioned in the first module tough-caring leadership expects high standards of performance. To be effective, management leads the program effort by establishing roles and responsibilities and providing an open, positive environment that encourages communication about safety and health. Click on the button to learn more about the actions leaders effectively show an expectation for excellent performance in safety.

Leaders can demonstrate a strong commitment to demonstrating an expectation for excellent performance in safety by taking the following actions.

  • Identify persons who will lead the safety function.
  • Define responsibilities and give managers, supervisors, and employees authority to accomplish those responsibilities.
  • Hold everyone accountable for their safety performance. Appropriately discipline when justified and positive recognition for safety excellence.
  • Establish ways for management and all workers to communicate freely and often about safety and health issues, without fear of retaliation.

2. What should leaders do to most effectively demonstrate commitment to employee safety and success?

a. Talk about safety at weekly meetings
b. Provide adequate physical and psychosocial resources
c. Tell employees they are committed to safety
d. Let employees know where the safety bulletin board is

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Leaders Encourage Participation

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Invite everyone - safety is a team effort.

Employee participation builds trust and also increases a feeling of ownership on the part of employees, and that benefits the company long-term. Look at the actions leaders can take to show a commitment to employee participation in safety.

  • Give workers the necessary time and resources to participate in the program.
  • Recognize and provide positive reinforcement to those who participate in the program.
  • Maintain an open door policy that invites workers to talk to managers about safety and health and to make suggestions.

Leaders Encourage Reporting

Workers are often best positioned to identify safety and health concerns and program shortcomings, such as workplace hazards, unsafe behaviors, near misses, and actual incidents. By encouraging reporting and following up promptly on all reports, employers can address issues before someone gets hurt or becomes ill. Check out what actions leaders can take to effectively show a commitment to encourage employee safety reporting.

  • Establish a process for workers to report hazards, incidents, and concerns.
  • Thank employees and never reprimand or punish them for reporting.
  • Report back to workers promptly and frequently about actions taken.
  • Only use reports to improve workplace safety. No worker should every experience retaliation for reporting.
  • Empower all workers to suspend or shutdown a work activity or operation they believe to be unsafe.
  • Involve workers in finding solutions to reported issues.

Leaders Give Workers Access

Sharing relevant safety and health information with workers fosters trust and helps organizations make more informed safety and health decisions. Actions leaders can take to show a commitment to encouraging employee access to safety information include:

  • access to Safety Data Sheets (SDSs), injury and illness data, and results of environmental exposure monitoring; and
  • Other useful information such as Job Hazard Analyses (JHAs), inspection reports, and incident/accident investigation reports.

3. What should leaders do if most employees are not reporting hazards, incidents, and accidents?

a. Ignore employees if they report serious infractions
b. Reprimand those employees who fail to report accidents
c. Start thanking them when they report hazards, incident, and accidents
d. Tell all employees they must report

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Leaders Involve Workers

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Include everyone in the safety management system, design, development, and deployment.

Including worker input at every step of safety management system (SMS) design, development, and deployment improves the employer's ability to identify the presence and causes of workplace hazards, creates a sense of program ownership among workers, enhances their understanding of how the program works, and helps sustain the program over time.

Actions leaders can take to show a strong commitment to employee involvement in the design, development, and deployment of the SMS include:

  • report hazards and develop solutions that improve safety and health;
  • analyze hazards in each step of routine and non-routine jobs, tasks, and processes;
  • conduct site safety inspections;
  • develop and revise safety procedures and practices;
  • participate in incident and accident investigations; and
  • help design and conduct safety training.

Leaders Remove Barriers

Effective leaders understand that to participate meaningfully in a program, workers must think and feel that their input is welcome, their voices will be heard, and they can access reporting mechanisms.

Kevin Burns - 4 Ways to Stop Safety Complacency

Participation will suffer if language, education, or skill levels in the workplace are not considered, or if workers fear retaliation or discrimination for speaking up.

For example, employees will not participate if investigations focus on blaming individuals rather than the underlying root causes that led to the incident, or if reporting an incident or concern could jeopardize the award of incentive-based prizes, rewards, or bonuses. Below are more actions leaders can take to show a commitment to removing barriers to participation in safety.

  • Ensure equality of opportunity to participate. Workers from all levels of the organization have a chance to participate regardless of their skill level, education, or language.
  • Provide frequent and regular feedback to show employees that their safety and health concerns are being heard and addressed.
  • Authorize sufficient time and resources to facilitate worker participation; for example, hold safety and health meetings during regular working hours.
  • Ensure that the program protects workers from being retaliated against for reporting injuries, illnesses, and hazards; participating in the program; or exercising their safety and health rights.
  • Ensure other policies and programs do not discourage worker participation.

4. What is the result if leaders focus on blaming individuals rather than uncovering root causes?

a. Accident rates slowly decrease over time
b. Higher rates of employee feedback during work hours
c. Less participation in safety activities
d. Employees will blame themselves for all safety issues

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Leaders Collect Information

Effective leaders are interested in the root causes for the conditions and behaviors resulting in accidents. They assume root causes always exist, so they go after them first.

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Gather information through inspections and analysis.

Information on workplace hazards may already be available to employers and workers from both internal and external sources. To uncover root causes, leaders should collect, organize, and review information with workers to determine what types of hazards may be present and which workers may be exposed or potentially exposed.

Leaders Inspect and Analyze

Effective leaders commit time to regularly inspect the workplace to identify and analyze hazardous conditions and unsafe behaviors. Management can identify shortcomings so that they can be proactively addressed before an incident occurs. Below are actions leaders can take to show a strong commitment to hazard identification and analysis.

  • Conduct joint management/employee inspections of all operations, equipment, work areas, and facilities.
  • Be sure to document inspections so you can later verify that hazardous conditions are corrected.
  • Include all operational activities in these inspections.
  • Regularly inspect both plant vehicles and transportation vehicles.
  • Use checklists that highlight things to look for.
  • Before changing operations, workstations, or workflow, seek the input of workers and evaluate the changes for potential hazards and related risks.

5. Effective leaders are interested in the root causes and go after them first because _____.

a. they know it's not possible to ignore them
b. people are the problem, not the system
c. surface causes for accidents never exist
d. they assume root causes always exist

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Leaders Identify Health Hazards

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Ergonomic hazards, like heavy objects, are very common.

Effective leaders realize that conditions in the workplace can affect employee health as well as safety. Reviewing medical records can be useful in identifying exposure to workplace health hazards. Health hazards include chemical, physical, biological and ergonomic hazards. below are actions leaders can take to show a strong commitment to identifying and mitigating health hazards.

  • Identify chemical hazards: Review SDSs and product labels to identify chemicals in your workplace that have low exposure limits, are highly volatile, or are used in large quantities or in unventilated spaces. Identify activities that may result in skin exposure to chemicals.
  • Identify physical hazards: Identify any exposures to excessive noise (areas where you must raise your voice to be heard by others), elevated heat (indoor and outdoor), or sources of radiation.
  • Identify biological hazards: Determine whether workers may be exposed to sources of infectious diseases, molds, toxic or poisonous plants, or animal materials (fur or scat) capable of causing allergic reactions or occupational asthma.
  • Identify ergonomic risk factors: Examine work activities that require heavy lifting, work above shoulder height, repetitive motions, or tasks with significant vibration.
  • Conduct quantitative exposure assessments, when possible, using air sampling or direct reading instruments.

Leaders Conduct Investigations

Effective leaders insist that all near-miss incidents and injury/illness accidents be investigated, not to place blame, but to fix safety management system weaknesses: the root causes. Doing so is very proactive because it helps ensure future incidents and accidents to not occur. They also investigate reports of other concerns that provide a clear indication of where hazards exist. Below are actions leaders can take to show a strong commitment to effective incident/accident investigation.

  • Develop a clear plan and procedure for conducting incident investigations, so that an investigation can begin immediately when an incident occurs.
  • Train investigative teams on incident investigation techniques, emphasizing objectivity and open-mindedness throughout the investigation process.
  • Conduct investigations with a trained team that includes representatives of both management and workers.
  • Investigate close calls/near misses as well as injury accidents.
  • Identify and analyze root causes to address underlying program shortcomings that allowed the incidents to happen.
  • Communicate the results of the investigation to managers, supervisors, and workers to prevent recurrence.

6. What is important for leaders to remember about the accident investigation process?

a. Be sure all non-compliance behaviors are disciplined prior to completing the inspection
b. Investigate all accidents, not just those resulting in serious injuries
c. Never communicate results of the accident to co-workers, supervisors, or managers
d. Save root cause analysis for human resource professionals

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Leaders Seek Control Strategies

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Hierarchy of Controls
Click to Enlarge.

Good leadership will seek input from workers on the feasibility and effectiveness of hazard control measures. See below what actions leaders can take to show a strong commitment to controlling hazardous conditions and unsafe behaviors in the workplace.

  • Review sources such as OSHA standards and consensus guidelines to identify potential control measures.
  • Use the Hierarchy of Controls as a primary strategy for prioritizing control measures.
  • Investigate control measures used in other workplaces and determine whether they would be effective at your workplace.
  • Get input from workers to suggest and evaluate solutions based on their knowledge of the facility, equipment, and work processes.

Employers should select the controls that are the most feasible, effective, and permanent. To do that, they should use the "Hierarchy of Controls" that best eliminate or mitigate hazards and unsafe behaviors. Leaders should also review and discuss control options with workers to ensure that controls are feasible and effective.

Leaders Implement Hazard Controls

Once hazard prevention and control measures have been identified, they should be implemented according to the hazard control plan. Below are actions leaders can take to show a strong commitment to implementing control measures to eliminate or mitigate hazardous conditions and unsafe behaviors.

  • Implement hazard control measures according to the priorities established in the hazard control plan.
  • When resources are limited, implement measures on a "worst-first" basis.
  • Promptly implement any measures that are easy and inexpensive regardless of the level of hazard they involve.

7. To most effectively control hazards and exposures, safety leaders should use the _____.

a. Hierarchy of Controls
b. six steps in the accident prevention process
c. worst-first strategy to avert serious injuries
d. ideas submitted by employees from other departments

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Leaders Follow Up

To ensure control measures are currently effective and remain so, employers should track progress in implementing controls, inspect and evaluate controls once they are installed, and follow routine preventive maintenance practices.

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Follow up to make sure improvements are working.

Managers, supervisors, and safety committees can conduct inspections, observations, and surveys to assess the progress of the various measures being taken to confirm controls are effective.

See below for more actions leaders can take to confirm effective corrective actions of hazardous conditions, unsafe behaviors, and underlying system weaknesses have been implemented.

  • Track progress and verify implementation by asking the following questions:
    • Have all control measures been implemented according to the hazard control plan?
    • Have engineering controls been properly installed and tested?
    • Have workers been appropriately trained so that they understand the controls, including how to operate engineering controls, safe work practices, and PPE use requirements?
    • Are controls being used correctly and consistently?
  • Conduct regular inspections (and industrial hygiene monitoring, if indicated) to confirm that engineering controls are operating as designed.
  • Evaluate control measures to determine if they are effective or need to be modified. Involve workers in the evaluation of the controls. If controls are not effective, identify, select, and implement further control measures that will provide adequate protection.
  • Confirm that work practices, administrative controls, and PPE use policies are being followed.
  • Conduct routine preventive maintenance of equipment, facilities, and controls to help prevent incidents due to equipment failure.

8. Which of the following is a recommended action leaders should take to confirm hazard controls are working?

a. Conducting regular follow-up inspections of hazard areas
b. Disciplining employees who are not following hazard control policies
c. Performing corrective maintenance as needed
d. Asking employees to express their feelings about safety

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Leaders Educate Everyone

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On-the-Job Training (OJT) is a real opportunity to demonstrate leadership.

Leaders Educate Everyone

One of the most important leadership activities that shows a strong commitment to safety is to ensure worker safety training is conducted by competent persons. Competent persons must have experience, completed a train-the-trainer course or equivalent, and have been evaluated and certified as having adequate knowledge, skills, and ability (KSAs) to conduct training. See the actions leaders can take to effectively instruct and train employees about their safety roles and responsibilities.

  • Their responsibilities as managers and supervisors, and the rights of workers under the OSH Act.
  • Best practices when responding to all workers' injury, illness, and incident reports in a positive way.
  • The fundamental concepts and techniques for recognizing hazards and methods of controlling them, including the hierarchy of controls.
  • Hazard analysis, controls, and incident/accident investigation techniques, including root cause analysis.

Leaders Train Why and How

One of the most important leadership activities that shows a strong commitment to safety is to ensure worker safety training is conducted by competent persons. See below for more about the actions leaders can take to effectively instruct and train employees about their safety roles and responsibilities.

  • Create a safety training function and designate competent persons as trainers. Competent persons have experience, have completed a train-the-trainer course, and have been evaluated and certified as having adequate knowledge, skills, and ability (KSAs) to conduct training.
  • Instruct workers on how to report injuries, illnesses, incidents, and concerns.
  • Instruct workers how and why they should carry out safety responsibilities, including: hazard recognition and controls, Job Hazard Analysis (JHA), incident/accident investigations, and participation in safety committees and inspections.
  • Instruct workers on concepts and techniques for controlling hazards, including the hierarchy of controls and its importance.
  • Train workers on why, when, and how to wear required PPE.
  • Provide additional training, as necessary, when there is a change in facilities, equipment, processes, materials, or work organization.
  • Provide opportunities for workers to ask questions and provide feedback during and after the training.

9. Which of the following is required before an employee is qualified to be a safety trainer?

a. They should have an interview with the human resources director
b. They must complete the OSHA 10-Hour Outreach Training Course
c. They must have at least two years experience on the topic being taught
d. They must be employer-certified as a competent person

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Leaders Evaluate To Improve

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Effective leaders evaluate and improve the safety management system (SMS).

After management develops a safety management system, sound leadership requires it be evaluated initially to verify that it is being implemented as intended. A policy of continuous improvement that requires using various methods to regularly check the quality of safety programs. At a minimum, should conduct a thorough evaluation at least annually, step back and assess what is working and what is not, and whether the program is on track to achieve its goals. Below are more actions leaders can take to effectively evaluate and ensure improvement have been made.

  • Measure safety management system performance using leading and lagging indicators.
  • Share results with workers and invite their input on how to further improve performance.
  • When opportunities arise, share results with all departments and workers in the organization, and with trade associations.
  • Involve workers in all aspects of program evaluation, including reviewing information (such as incident reports and exposure monitoring results); establishing and tracking performance indicators; and identifying opportunities to improve the program.
  • Verify that key processes are in place and operating as intended.
  • Review the results of any compliance audits to confirm that any program shortcomings are being identified. Verify that actions are being taken that will prevent recurrence.

Leaders Identify Opportunities

Whenever a problem is identified in any part of the safety and health program, employers — in coordination with supervisors, managers, and workers — should take prompt action to correct the problem and prevent its recurrence. Check out some actions leaders can take to effectively make improvements to the safety management system.

  • Take actions needed to correct program shortcomings.
  • Proactively seek input from managers, workers, supervisors, and other stakeholders on how to improve the safety management system.
  • Determine whether changes in equipment, facilities, materials, key personnel, or work practices trigger any need for changes in the system.
  • Determine whether key performance indicators and goals are still relevant and, if not, how to change them to more effectively drive improvements in workplace safety and health.

10. Effective safety leaders will develop a program evaluation policy that requires _____.

a. quarterly inspections
b. continuous improvement
c. monthly observations
d. periodic surveys

Check your Work

Click on the "Check Quiz Answers" button to grade your quiz and see your score. You will receive a message if you forgot to answer one of the questions. After clicking the button, the questions you missed will be listed below. You can correct any missed questions and check your answers again.


Ivor and Jeff, magicians, presenters and facilitators are based in Aberdeen, Scotland, but travel the world delivering engaging and inspiring presentations on safety to some of the world's biggest companies. Using magic as a visual aid to captivate the audience they look at key behavioral safety issues essential to a good health & safety culture. TEDx Talks Video

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