Leadership in Action
Now that we have a better idea what leadership really is, we will now discuss the many actions managers, supervisors, and employees can take that demonstrates personal leadership at work. Remember,
leadership isn't demonstrated with words: it requires action - doing something.
Leadership is expressed by commitment to safety.
Leaders Demonstrate Commitment to Safety and Health
Commitment to safety is more than mere support for safety. Serious commitment requires serious action in terms of time and money. Support may be expressed, over and over, but unless management
devotes serious time and money to safety, it's not commitment. A clear, written policy helps you communicate that safety and health is a central core value - as important as productivity, profitability,
product or service quality, and customer satisfaction. To demonstrate strong commitment, managers should:
- Fully fund and devote time to all safety and health programs, including instruction and training, PPE and fall protection.
- Reinforce management commitment by considering safety and health in all business decisions.
- Be visible in operations and set an example by following the same safety procedures workers follow.
- Begin work meetings with a discussion or review of safety and health indicators and any outstanding safety items on a "to do" list.
- Emphasize safety as a core value rather than a priority. Get rid of the "safety first" messages and replace them with "safety only" messages.
Leaders Define Safety Goals and Objectives
Leaders understand the necessity of establishing general long-term goals and specific operational objectives, management 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. To establish goals, management should:
- Establish realistic goals for improving safety and health. Goals emphasizing injury and illness prevention should be included rather than focusing on 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 particular people, setting timeframes, and determining resource needs.
- Integrate goals, objectives, and related assignments into an overall strategic safety and health plan.
Leaders Allocate Resources
Allocate serious resources: time and money to safety.
To effectively demonstrate leadership through commitment, management must provide adequate physical and psychosocial resources to achieve expected standards for performance, and
address program shortcomings when they are identified. To show this commitment, management should:
- 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 and maintain 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. To set and realize excellent safety performance, leaders should:
- 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.
Leaders Encourage Worker Participation
Invite everyone - safety is a team effort.
Effective leaders know that by encouraging workers to participate in the program, management signals that it values their input into safety and health decisions. Employee participation builds
trust and also increases a feeling of ownership on the part of employees, and that benefits the company long-term. To effectively encourage participation, leaders should:
- 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 Safety and Health Concerns
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. To effectively demonstrate leadership in reporting, leaders should:
- Establish a process for workers to report hazardous conditions, unsafe behaviors, incidents and accidents, and other safety and health concerns.
- If sufficient trust between labor and management does not exist, include an option for anonymous reporting to reduce fear of reprisal. If supervisors and managers thank employees and
never reprimand or punish them for reporting, sufficient trust will build, eliminating the need for anonymous reporting.
- Report back to workers promptly and frequently about action taken.
- Emphasize that management will use reported information only to improve workplace safety and health, and that no worker will experience retaliation for reporting.
- Empower all workers to initiate or request a temporary suspension or shutdown of any work activity or operation they believe to be unsafe.
- Involve workers in finding solutions to reported issues.
Leaders Give Workers Access to Safety and Health Information
Sharing relevant safety and health information with workers fosters trust and helps organizations make more informed safety and health decisions. Leaders should give workers access to:
- Safety Data Sheets (SDSs), injury and illness data, and results of environmental exposure monitoring.
- Other useful information for workers to review can include, Job Hazard Analyses (JHAs), inspection reports, and incident/accident investigation reports.
Leaders Involve Workers In All Aspects of Safety
Include everyone in the safety management system, design, development, and deployment.
Including worker input at every step of safety program 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. Leaders should provide opportunities for workers to
participate in all aspects of the program, including:
- reporting hazards and developing solutions that improve safety and health;
- analyzing hazards in each step of routine and nonroutine jobs, tasks, and processes;
- conducting site safety inspections;
- developing and revising safety procedures and practices;
- participating in incident and accident investigations; and
- training current coworkers and new hires.
Leaders Remove Barriers to Participation
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. Participation will be suppressed 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. To effectively demonstrate leadership in removing barriers to participation, leaders should:
- Ensure workers from all levels of the organization can 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.
Leaders Collect Information About Hazards
Gather information through inspections and analysis.
Effective leaders are interested in the root causes for the conditions and behaviors resulting in accidents. 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 Hazards
Effective leaders commit time to regularly inspect the workplace for hazards. This can help identify shortcomings so that they can be addressed before an incident occurs.
To effectively demonstrate leadership in conducting inspections, leaders should:
- Conduct regular inspections of all operations, equipment, work areas, and facilities. Have workers participate on the inspection team, and talk to them about hazards that they see or report.
- Be sure to document inspections so you can later verify that hazardous conditions are corrected. Take photos or video of problem areas to facilitate later discussion and brainstorming about
how to control them, and for use as learning aids.
- Include all areas and activities in these inspections, such as storage and warehousing, facility and equipment maintenance, purchasing and office functions, and the activities of on-site
contractors, subcontractors, and temporary employees.
- Regularly inspect both plant vehicles (e.g., forklifts, powered industrial trucks) and transportation vehicles (e.g., cars, trucks).
- Use checklists that highlight things to look for. Typical hazards fall into several major categories, such as: General housekeeping, equipment, machinery, maintenance, work practices,
and ergonomic issues.
- Before changing operations, workstations, or workflow, seek the input of workers and evaluate the changes for potential hazards and related risks.
Leaders Identify Health Hazards
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. To effectively demonstrate leadership when identifying health hazards, leaders should:
- 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 Incident/Accident 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. To effectively demonstrate leadership when conducting incident/accident investigations, leaders should:
- 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.
- 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.
Leaders Identify Hazard Control Strategies
Hierarchy of Controls
Click to Enlarge.
A wealth of information exists to help employers investigate options for controlling identified hazards. Good leadership will seek input from workers on the feasibility and effectiveness
of hazard control measures. To effectively demonstrate leadership in identifying and selecting hazard control strategies, leaders should::
- Review sources such as OSHA standards and consensus guidelines to identify potential 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 control hazards and
exposure. 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. To effectively demonstrate leadership in implementing hazard
controls, managers should:
- 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.
Leaders Follow Up to Confirm that Controls are Effective
Follow up to make sure improvements are working.
To ensure control measures are and remain effective, employers should track progress in implementing controls, inspect and evaluate controls once they are installed, and follow routine
preventive maintenance practices. Effective leadership will make sure the following is accomplished:
- 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.
Leaders Educate Employers, Managers, and Supervisors
On-the-Job Training (OJT) is a real opportunity to demonstrate leadership.
Employers, managers, and supervisors are responsible for workers' safety, and will benefit from specific training that allows them to fulfill their leadership roles in the program.
Demonstrating leadership in this area occurs when employers instruct managers and supervisors on the following:
- 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 Workers Why and How to Work Safely
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. To demonstrate the
commitment to worker training, managers should:
- 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.
Leaders Conduct SMS Evaluation and Improvement
Leaders continually 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. After that, employers should
periodically, and 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. To effectively demonstrate leadership, managers should:
- 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 Correct Program Shortcomings and Identify Improvement 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. To effectively demonstrate leadership, managers should:
- 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.
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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