Course 700 - Introduction to Safety Management

Commitment and Leadership


Commitment is time and money.

Suppose you want to reduce the costs of workplace injuries, illnesses, and fatalities. In that case, place as much emphasis on safety and health as you do on other management issues.

The first step is to develop a Safety Management System (SMS) that is integrated into the company’s corporate management system.

An effective SMS will include the following characteristics:

  • Vision: The SMS will reflect management's vision for safety that tells the world what the company believes about itself. The corporate vision influences an organization's strategic goals and objectives.
  • Mission statement: The SMS mission tells the world why it exists, its purpose, and what it does to achieve that purpose.
  • Goals and Objectives: Goals and objectives are the long-term strategies and short-term tactics the company uses to achieve its SMS mission and vision.
  • Structure: The SMS structure is determined by how it is designed. It includes a description of management positions and programs. The structure usually includes a safety manager, line/staff managers, supervisors, and a safety committee.
  • Performance: The SMS will behave in a way that reflects quality of leadership and performance. Performance quality is dependent on the effectiveness of policies, programs, written plans, processes, procedures, practices, budgets, rules, and reports.
  • Outcomes: Outcomes describe the results of the SMS's performance. They are dependent on the SMS performance, so you cannot NOT have outcomes. They include the quality of employee morale, training, supervision, resources, and accident rates. Outcomes are quantified using leading and lagging indicators.

OSHA has developed Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs that will help you analyze and evaluate your organization's SMS. We encourage you to use this valuable resource.

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1. What must employers do when developing a safety management system to help ensure it's effective?

a. Emphasize the measurement of lagging indicators
b. Integrate the SMS into the corporate management system
c. Start with a "zero accidents" program
d. Have a tough-controlling leadership style

Next Section

Kevin Burns - Who Safety Managers Serve

Top Management Commitment

It's essential to the success of your company's safety and health program that top management demonstrates not only an interest but a long-term serious commitment to protect every employee from injury and illness on the job. Below are a few indicators of top management commitment to the SMS:

Survey your company's safety management system to determine the status of each indicator. Managers indicate a commitment to safety when they:

  • write safety vision, mission, goals, objectives, and policy statements;
  • write long-term strategies and short-term tactics for achieving safety objectives;
  • provide safety budgets, staffing, and facilities for training and meetings;
  • set an example of good safety practices, e.g., wearing personal protective equipment;
  • personally conduct safety audits, inspections, and investigations;
  • participate in safety committee activities; and
  • regularly attend safety activities outside the company.

Management commitment to safety will occur when each manager understands the positive benefits of their effort. Understanding the benefits creates a strong desire to improve the company's safety culture. Managers invest serious time and money into effective safety management by applying each of the elements in the SMS

It's "Safety Only," not "Safety First"

The commonly seen phrase, "Safety First," may sound nice but it's not truly effective. Safety is most effective when it's considered a core value, not merely a priority. Priorities can easily change, especially when the going gets tough. Core values do not change, no matter what: change "Safety First" to "Safety Only."

"Safety Only" emphasizes the idea that it's fine to produce as hard and fast as you can, as long as you can do it safely. If a safety issue is discovered that might cause serious physical harm or death, correct it immediately, even if that means shutting down production. That's commitment to safety!

2. The safety management system will be most effective when safety is _____.

a. included as a cost of doing business
b. considered a core value
c. properly prioritized
d. in compliance with OSHA

Next Section

Commitment is about values.

Why Managers Make a Commitment to Safety

Managers make a commitment to safety to fulfill one or more corporate obligations. They invest time and money in safety to fulfill one or more of the following obligations: Social, Financial, and Legal. Click on the buttons to see why the employer is motivated to fulfill each of these obligations.

Social obligation

Commitment to fulfill this obligation is most effective in the long term. Managers realize that long-term corporate survival depends on more than maximizing short-term profits. They tend to value and tap into the creative potential of each employee. They perceive safety as a core corporate value that does not change when the going gets tough. When managers value safety at this level, they naturally do safety to fulfill the other obligations.

Financial obligation

Commitment to safety to meet this obligation can be quite effective because it makes good financial sense. Managers are motivated to invest in safety because they understand the financial benefits of an effective safety culture. They feel obliged to operate the business in a financially prudent manner. They do whatever needs to be done to manage safety costs. Safety may be given a high priority if it pays for itself or actually saves money. However, when managers believe safety is just "the cost of doing business," they may give it a lower priority.

Legal obligation

Commitment to safety is given only to fulfill minimum legal requirements. Consequently, this is the least compelling reason for doing safety. Managers want to stay out of trouble, so they do only what has to be done to meet OSHA requirements. Safety is not a priority or value, but thought of as just the cost of doing business. Safety strategies are typically reactive because safety is not a problem unless there is an accident. OSHA may be considered the "bad guy" because management doesn't understand how OSHA works.

Leadership and Culture

Every day, employees, supervisors, and managers have many opportunities to communicate and act in ways that show safety leadership. Unfortunately, these opportunities may go unanswered because they do not see them as opportunities that demonstrate leadership and benefit the organization.

Most employees at all levels of the organization are good people trying to do the best they can with what they've got. The problem is, they don't always have the physical resources and psychosocial support required to achieve the best results. Ultimately, the workplace culture must support effective safety management and leadership.

Employees perceptions of "the way things are around here" can exert a great influence on leadership styles. We can associate three basic leadership styles managers use to meet the obligations discussed above. Let's look at these leadership styles.

3. Managers who perceive safety as a core value are most likely to fulfill the company's _____.

a. social obligation
b. financial obligation
c. legal obligation
d. employee obligation

Next Section

Tough-coercive leadership is not effective.
Tough-coercive leadership is not effective.

Tough-Coercive Leadership

Managers with a tough-coercive leadership style are tough on safety to protect themselves from litigation and OSHA citations. A need to fulfill their legal obligations motivates them, and that’s it.

Click on the button to see the characteristics tough-coercive leadership.

A tough-coercive leadership approach has the following characteristics:

  • The manager's approach to controlling performance may primarily rely on the threat of punishment.
  • The culture is fear-driven. Management resorts to an accountability system that emphasizes negative consequences.
  • What managers do and say communicate messages that create negative untrusting relationships with employees.
  • Employees perform only to the level that avoids negative consequences. They will comply, but excellent performance is rare.
  • Employee turnover is high due to the lack of job satisfaction and increased stress.

Click on the button to see examples of tough-coercive leadership.

What supervisors and managers might say if they have a coercive management style:

  • "If I go down, I'm taking you all with me!"
  • "If you report hazards, you will be labeled a complainer."
  • "If you violate any safety rule, we'll fire you on the spot!"

As you might guess, fear-driven cultures cannot achieve world-class safety because employees work only to avoid negative consequences. Bottom-line: a fear-driven safety culture will not work. It can’t be effective at any level of the organization. It may be successful in getting compliance, but no more.

4. Which of the following describes the primary motivation for a tough-coercive leadership approach?

a. To fulfill the company's legal obligation
b. To fulfill the company's financial obligation
c. To fulfill the company's social obligation
d. To fulfill the company's employee obligation

Next Section

Tough-controlling safety leadership is not truly effective.
Tough-controlling safety leadership is not truly effective.

Tough-Controlling Leadership

Managers using a tough-controlling leadership approach are tough on safety primarily to secure compliance with safety policies and rules, and to control losses due to accidents. These leaders consider safety as a "loss control" function.

They may have high standards for behavior and performance, and feel the need for tight control of all aspects of work to ensure compliance.

Click on the button to see the characteristics of tough-controlling leadership.

A tough-controlling leadership approach has the following characteristics:

  • It is considered the "traditional" management model.
  • Management is interested in effective safety to successfully reduce injuries and illnesses, thereby cutting production costs.
  • Managers may rely on a balance of negative and positive reinforcement to control behaviors.
  • Tight control is necessary to achieve numerical goals.
  • Communication is typically top-down, and information is used to control.
  • A safety "director" is usually appointed to act as a cop: responsible for controlling the safety function.
  • The safety culture is less fear-based, yet compliance is still the primary safety goal.

Click on the button to see examples of tough-controlling leadership.

What supervisors and managers might say if they have a tough-controlling management style:

  • "If you have an accident, you'll be disciplined."
  • "If you don't have an accident, you won't lose your bonus."
  • "If you comply with safety rules, you will be recognized."

5. Why are tough-controlling leaders tough on safety?

a. To scare employees to work safely
b. To get rid of non-performing workers
c. To control losses
d. To create a fear-based culture

Next Section

Tough-caring leadership is most effective.
Tough-caring safety leadership is most effective.
(Click to enlarge)

Tough-Caring Leadership

Tough-caring leaders are tough on safety because they care about the success of their employees. This approach is like the more familiar "servant-leader" model in which leaders serve those they lead.

The tough-caring leadership model is a major shift in leadership and management thinking from the tough-controlling model. Instead of focusing on controlling employees to maintain compliance, tough-caring leaders focus on supporting employees to achieve excellence. Click on the button to see some characteristics of tough-caring leadership.

How supervisors and managers demonstrate a tough-caring leadership style:

  • They understand that complying with the law, controlling losses, and improving production can be assured if employees are motivated, safe, and able.
  • They understand that they can fulfill their commitment to external customers by fulfilling their obligations to employees.
  • Communication is typically all-way: bottom-up as well as top-down.
  • Information is used to share so that everyone succeeds.
  • All supervisors and managers are responsible for safety. The safety manager is considered a consultant, not a cop.
  • A high level of safety involvement, ownership, mutual respect, and trust exists between labor and management.

Supervisors and managers exhibit tough-caring leadership in many ways. Click on the button to some examples of what supervisors and managers might say and do if they have a tough-caring leadership style.

What they say:
  • "If you comply with safety rules, report injuries, and hazards, I will personally recognize you."
  • "If you get involved in the safety committee, you will be more promotable."
  • "If you suggest and help make improvements, I will personally recognize and reward you."
What they do:
  • Supervisors will regular recognize and reward employees who demonstrate safety excellence.
  • Managers get involved in safety committee operations, inspections, and investigations.
  • Top executives commit the necessary funding for safety training, PPE, and other equipment.

6. In the tough-caring leadership model, communication is _____.

a. one-sided
b. all-way
c. lacking
d. used as a tool for discipline

Next Section

Scott Williams - Manager and Leaders.

Commitment vs. Support

Leaders in top management may communicate their support for safety. However, the real test for commitment is the degree to which management acts on its support with serious investments in time and money. When management communicates their interest in safety, but does not follow through with action, they merely express support, not commitment.

Leaders Get What They Give!

Genuine commitment expresses tough-caring leadership by example. Integrity, character, and self-discipline are values that all managers seek in their employees.

Leadership by example, integrity, character and self-discipline.
Leaders get what they give.

Employees will show these important attributes when (and only when) they see management exhibiting these values first. Outstanding leaders truly care about those they lead. What better way to show leadership than by providing a safe and healthful place of work for all employees?

Here's some food for thought: If you're a manager or supervisor, ask yourself, "Do I really like my people?" If the answer isn't yes, start now to rethink your opinion because it's almost impossible to show caring leadership if you don't actually like your people.

"We choose to have zero injuries. We choose to have zero injuries not because it is easy, but because it is hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, because we care for ourselves and others too." S. Farnham, Safety Manager, Contrack, International.

Serious Commitment = Serious time and money.

7. How does management demonstrate a real commitment to safety?

a. They communicate the importance of safety
b. They commit serious time and money to safety
c. They talk about safety on every occasion
d. They put safety signs in the work area

Next Section

Vision and Mission Statements

What we do depends on who we think we are.
What we do (mission) depends on who we think we are (vision).
(Click to enlarge)

The vision statement lets the employee and customer know who you are by defining your company's role and basic values. The vision statement reflects the corporate culture. One way to understand a corporate culture is to think of it as its unique "personality," setting it apart from all others.

Sample Vision Statement

XYZ Widgets values its "relationship with customers" above all. To be successful we treat all employees as valued internal customers. We respect their ideas, value their work, and provide whatever is needed so that they may accomplish excellence in a safe-productive manner. Doing this empowers our employees so that they may manifest our values daily with our external customers.

The mission statement tells the world what you do -- why your company exists, by stating its intended purpose. The mission statement lets everyone know your company's product or service, who its customers are, and its service territory.

Sample Mission Statement

XYZ Widgets' mission is to safely manufacture and deliver the highest quality megalithic cyberwidgets to our valued customers worldwide.

If your company doesn't have a mission statement, try to develop one and convince management of the benefits that will result from a written mission statement. Now let's look at two basic approaches employers may adopt in safety and health program management.

8. The _____ tells everyone what you do, and the _____ lets everyone know who you are.

a. safety values statement, safety program
b. safety management system, company policy
c. vision statement, mission statement
d. mission statement, vision statement

Next Section

Reactive Approach to Safety

Be proactive to prevent accidents.
Putting out fires as they happen is reactive.

It's sad but true. Some employers think they can rely on reactive "firefighting" strategies that deal with safety problems as they come up. This approach to safety management is considered "reactive" because it assumes:

  • accidents just happen;
  • there's not much that can be done about it; and
  • accident costs are among the many other unrecoverable costs of doing business.

Consequently, these employers place most of their effort into reacting to accidents after they occur. The goal is to minimize the costs of an injuries and illnesses on the company. Employers think they'll save money by using this approach.

Reactive Strategies

A reactive approach to safety uses strategies always costs the company much more. Why? In addition to the costs of prevention, the employer must also pay the direct and indirect accident costs.

Click on the button to see examples of safety programs that are developed when employers have a reactive approach and use reactive strategies.

Examples of Reactive Safety Programs

  • Accident investigation to determine blame — never uncovers root causes.
  • Early return to work program — only activate after an accident.
  • Incentive programs that reward for not reporting accidents — "Accident-Free Days" program.

9. Which of the following strategies costs more in the long term?

a. Reactive strategies
b. Proactive strategies
c. OSHA strategies
d. NIOSH strategies

Next Section

Proactive Approach to Safety

Be proactive to prevent accidents.
Be proactive to prevent accidents.

Many employers adopt a "proactive" approach to safety management that emphasizes preventive strategies. A proactive solution anticipates and corrects hazardous conditions and practices to prevent accidents.

Employers will do whatever it takes to make sure accidents never happen because they consider safety a core value "chiseled in stone" rather than a priority that can be easily lowered if the going gets tough.

This approach is considered "proactive" because it assumes:

  • there is no excuse for accidents;
  • there are many preventive solutions; and
  • in the long term, money and lives are always saved by preventing accidents

Proactive Strategies

A proactive approach to safety uses strategies are less expensive than reactive strategies in the long term because employers make investments that result in potentially huge returns.

Click on the button to see examples of safety programs that are developed when employers have a proactive approach and use proactive strategies.

Proactive Safety Programs

  • Incident/Accident analysis to determine root causes
  • Hazard investigation — inspections
  • Wellness program
  • Incentive/Recognition program that rewards safe behavior
  • Safety committees/teams
  • Education and Training
  • Job Hazard Analysis
  • Hazard communication program
  • Lockout/Tagout program
  • Confined Space program

10. Which of the following approaches anticipates and corrects hazardous conditions and practices to prevent accidents?

a. Reactive approaches
b. Proactive approaches
c. Positive approaches
d. Punitive approaches

Next Section

Goals and Objectives

Goals and Objectives

So now you have a vision and mission statement developed. The next step is to proactively develop some goals and objectives to improve your company's safety and health program. The problem is, most people think goals and objectives are the same things: They're not.


Goals short statements and are easy to write. They're nothing more than wishes. For instance, a goal might be to:

  • Promote the safety suggestion program
  • Get everyone trained


Objectives are action-oriented statements that provide more detail. They should be structured to be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Relevant, and Timely. Take a look at the video on this page for more information on how to write SMART objective.

How to Write Operational Objectives

Properly-written objectives should have the following elements present:

  • They start with an action verb. (Decrease, increase, improve, etc.)
  • They specify a single key result to be accomplished.
  • They state a quantifiable change. Uses numbers to measure the desired change. (i.e., 50% increase)
  • They specify a target date. This is the date the objective is to be met.

Click on the button to see examples of operational objectives.

Examples of operational objectives:

  • Increase the number of safety suggestions by 25% for each of the next two quarters.
  • Perform a joint labor-management safety inspection in each department by the end of this month.
  • Conduct a 4-hour lockout-tagout safety training course for all maintenance employees within three months.
  • Write a Job Hazard Analysis (JHA) for all hazardous tasks in the production plant by June 1st.

Work with the safety committee to share the goals and objectives with everyone in the company. By the end of this course, you should be able to think of many more ways to increase management commitment.

11. Which of the following statements is written as an objective?

a. Improve safety and health awareness through increased training
b. Gain credibility with the local community
c. Lower our workers' compensation costs this year
d. Lower the number of serious accidents by 20% by the end of the year

Next Section

Commitment is time and money.
Direct vs. Indirect Costs

Direct and Indirect Costs

When discussing the bottom-line benefits of safety with management, they must understand the relationship between indirect and direct accident costs.

  • Direct Costs, or insured costs, are those costs covered by workers compensation insurance, other minor medical costs, and direct damage expenses for the accident. The company pays insurance to cover these costs.
  • Indirect Costs, or uninsured costs, refer to production time lost by the injured employee, fellow workers, and supervisors; spoiled product, unhappy customers; cleanup time; schedule delays; training new employees; overhead costs; legal fees and an increase in insurance costs.

According to the National Safety Council, when considering all industries nationally, the average direct and indirect claim costs for a lost-time injury is over $40,000, and a fatality can cost over $1 million.

Indirect/Direct Cost Ratios

Indirect costs average 2.7 times the direct costs. However, it's important to understand that indirect costs may be much higher. Here are three important points to remember when estimating indirect to direct accident cost ratios:

  • Generally, the lower the direct cost, the higher the ratio between the indirect and direct costs. Because there is no such thing as a "typical" injury, indirect costs can be difficult to compute. The Department of Labor puts the ratio of indirect to direct costs anywhere from 1:1 to 20:1.
  • Suppose accidents occur at labor-intensive operations where more investment is made in labor than capital assets. In that case, lower indirect/direct cost ratios will likely be experienced.

12. Typically, the indirect costs of accidents average _____ the amount of direct costs.

1.5 times
2.7 times
3.5 times
4.7 times

Next Section

Safety Pays!

Take a look and download OSHA's Safety Pays software program to help determine direct and indirect costs.

Annual Return on Investment (ROI) in Percent

Management may ask you what the Return on Investment (ROI) will be for investment in safety. Let's say you recommend a $4,000 investment in taking corrective action to eliminate a hazard that could cause an injury resulting in accident costs of $36,000. To determine the ROI:

  1. Divide $36,000 accident cost by $4,000 investment which gives you 9.
  2. To express the result as a percentage, multiply 9 by 100 to arrive at a %ROI of 900 percent. Now that is a great return!

         (COST ÷ INVESTMENT) X 100 = % ROI

         ($36,000 ÷ $4,000) X 100 = 900% ROI

Payback Period in Months

Management may also want to know how long it will take to pay back the $4,000 investment. To determine the payback period:

  1. Divide the accident cost of $36,000 by 12 months to arrive at $3,000 per month in potential accident costs.
  2. Divide the investment of $4,000 by a monthly accident cost of $3,000, and you'll see that the $4,000 investment will be paid back in only 1.33 months.


$4,000 ÷ ($36,000 ÷ 12 MONTHS) = 1.33 MONTHS

What does it mean? The investment is actually saving the company money in a little over five weeks! That's a "no-brainer."

Plan the Work, Work the Plan

Now you have some ammunition to help motivate and increase top management commitment to invest in safety. You'll receive many more tips and ideas about this throughout the course. An important step in making sure the above ideas are effectively applied is to develop an action plan to get top management commitment. An action plan is nothing more than a set of long-term strategies and short-term tactics ("how" statements).

Take a closer look at some of the key elements of an effective recommendation.

13. If the employer makes an investment of $5,000 to correct a hazard that is certain to cause an accident within one year, costing the employer $25,000 to cover the accident, what is the Return on Investment (ROI)?

a. 25 percent
b. 250 percent
c. 50 percent
d. 500 percent

Check your Work

Read the material in each section to find the correct answer to each quiz question. After answering all the questions, 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.


Mark Hurliman - Safety Leadership at All Levels

Mark is a consultant and leader within Oregon OSHA, and he manages Oregon's Safety and Health Achievement and Recognition Program (SHARP). If you have time, watch this presentation. It's worth it!

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