Course 700 - Introduction to Safety Management

Element 1: Commitment and Leadership

Commitment is time and money.
Commitment is time and money.
(Click to enlarge)

Getting Top Management Commitment

It is 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. But, if you think you don't have that level of commitment, how do you get it? Real commitment doesn't just appear out of thin air. What is the secret?

The Elements of a Safety Management System

Management commitment to safety will occur to the extent each manager clearly understands the positive benefits derived from their effort.

Understanding the benefits will create a strong desire to improve the company's safety culture. Managers will invest serious time and money into effective safety management by developing each of the following elements in the SMS:

  • Vision statement: Tells the world what the company would like to have accomplished in the future. A vision statement is based on an organization's strategic and organizational objectives.
  • Mission statement: Tells the world why the company exists. It's purpose. What it does.
  • Objectives: Intended outcomes that support the mission and vision.
  • Policies: General guidance formulated and implemented by managers at all levels.
  • Programs: Describe coordinated strategies that support policy.
  • Plans: Give clear written (formal) guidelines on how to implement programs and policies. Includes long-term strategies and short-term tactics.
  • Processes: Make sure safety is integrated into operational processes.
  • Procedures: Ensure concise formal/informal step-by-step instructions.
  • Budgets: Support investment in all of the above.
  • Rules: Clearly state specifications and performance standards.
  • Reports: Reflect process and measures results. Evaluates effectiveness of all the above.

Check out this short audio clip by Dan Clark of the that talks about I2P2 - Injury and Illness Prevention Programs.

1. When will management's commitment to safety occur?

a. When management is forced to comply by employees
b. When management clearly understands the positive benefits
c. When employees ask for it
d. When higher level management forces lower level management to comply

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 obligation

Commitment to fulfill this obligation is most effective in the long term. Management has come to the realization that long-term corporate survival depends on more than maximizing short-term profits. Managers 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.

Fiscal or 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 proactively and reactively reduce direct and indirect safety costs. Safety may be a high priority if it pays. However, because safety is not really considered an unchangeable value, it may be given a lower priority if "the going gets tough".

Legal obligation

Commitment to safety is given only to fulfill minimum legal requirements. Consequently, this is the least effective 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. You can see how OSHA works by reading OSHA's Field Operations Manual.

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

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

Next Section


Kevin Burns - Who Safety Managers Serve

Every day, employees, supervisors and managers have many opportunities to communicate and act in ways that demonstrate safety leadership. Unfortunately, these opportunities go unanswered because they are not seen as opportunities. Employers and managers do not understand that the simple expression of tough-caring safety leadership can result in enormous benefits. The inability to perceive leadership opportunities as they arise limits the company's potential to succeed.

It's appropriate to assume that 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 to achieve the kind of results expected of them. Why? Ultimately, the workplace culture may not support effective safety management and leadership.

The way we perceive "The way things are around here"...can exert a great influence on leadership styles. We can associate three fundamental leadership styles to the three management imperatives discussed above. Let's take a look at this association.

3. Why don't workers achieve the kind of results that are expected of them at work?

a. There are too many OSHA regulations
b. There is not enough consistent discipline
c. They do not have the physical resources and psychosocial support
d. They just don't care enough

Next Section

Tough-coercive leadership is not effective.
Tough-coercive leadership is not effective.
(Click to enlarge)

Tough-Coercive Leadership

Managers with a tough-coercive leadership style are tough on safety to protect themselves from litigation and OSHA citations. Their motivated by a need to fulfill their legal obligations and that's it. Tough-coercive leadership has the following characteristics:

  • The manager's approach to controlling performance may primarily rely on the threat of punishment.
  • The culture is fear-driven because 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.

Here are some examples of what a tough-coercive leader might communicate to employees:

  • "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, by definition cannot be effective in achieving world-class safety because employees work only to avoid a negative consequence. 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 achieving compliance, but that's it.

4. Which of the following would be 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.
(Click to enlarge)

Tough-Controlling Leadership

Managers using a tough-controlling leadership approach are tough on safety primarily to control losses. They 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.

Tough-controlling leadership approach has the following characteristics:

  • It is considered the "traditional" management model.
  • Management is interested in effective safety to successfully reduces 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.

Examples of what you might hear from a tough-controlling leader include:

  • "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 first. This approach is similar to the more familiar "servant-leader" model in which leaders serve those they lead.

The tough-caring leadership model represents a major shift in leadership and management thinking from the tough controlling model. Characteristics of this approach include:

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

What are you likely to hear from a tough-caring leader? Here are three examples:

  • "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."

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.

Committed Management

Top management may communicate their support for safety, but the real test for commitment is the degree to which management acts on their communication with serious investments in time and money. When management merely communicates their interest in safety, but does not follow through with action, they are expressing moral support, not commitment.

Leaders Get What They Give!

Real commitment is an expression of 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 demonstrate these important attributes when (and only when) they see management exhibiting these values first. Great leaders truly care about those they lead. What better way to demonstrate leadership than by providing a safe and healthful place of work for all employees.

Just 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 demonstrate caring leadership if you don't actually like your people.

"We choose to have zero injuries. We choose to have zero injuries this day and do this, 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

7. How does management demonstrate commitment to safety?

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

Next Section

Managers Get What They Design!

They say "perception is reality." If you perceive a lack of top management commitment to safety and health, what can you do about it? First of all, think about fixing the system, not the blame. It's all about system design.

If management is not demonstrating commitment through action, you have an opportunity to become a key player to get things moving. With the help of the safety committee you can "educate up" to help management gain the all-important vision and understanding needed to positively affect attitudes and subsequent behaviors that give workplace safety the emphasis it deserves. Now let's take a look at what you can do.

8. You're a new safety manager at XYZ, Inc. If you see a lack of management commitment, what should be your first priority?

a. Start by firing top management
b. Fix the safety management system
c. Fix the blame for the lack of safety
d. Leave and find another job

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

Sample Vision Statement

XYZ Widgets values its "relationship with customer" 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 what your company's product or service is; who its customers are; what its service territory is.

Sample Mission Statement

It is the mission of XYZ Widgets to safely manufacture and deliver the highest quality megalithic cyberwidgets to our valued customers throughout the world.

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 take a look at two basic approaches employers may adopt in safety and health program management.

9. 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 vs. Proactive Safety Strategies

Be proactive to prevent accidents.
Be proactive to prevent accidents.
(Click to enlarge)

Don't Just React to Safety

It's sad but true - some companies have adopted an approach to safety and health that emphasizes a reactive strategy. A reactive approach assumes that accidents just happen, and there's not much that can be done about it. Consequently, the company places most of its effort into reacting to accidents after they occur. A reactive response occurs after an injury or illness and usually has the purpose of minimizing the costs associated with the injury or illness.

Reactive safety programs always cost much more than proactive programs: Always. Why? Because they aren't implemented until an injury or illness has occurred. When management emphasizes a reactive approach to safety and health, it sends some negative messages to employees:

  • we don't care about you, and
  • it's all about money, not your safety.

Check out these examples of reactive safety programs.

Be business proactive

Successful companies adopt a proactive strategy that emphasizes prevention. They will do whatever it takes to make sure accidents never happen in the workplace. They believe there are no excuses for an accident. A proactive response to safety and health in the workplace occurs before an accident has occurred. It anticipates and tries to prevent accidents.

By emphasizing accident prevention, management sends positive messages to employees:

  • we care about you, and
  • your safety is more important than profits

Proactive safety strategies are always less expensive than reactive strategies because the company makes investments that result in potentially huge returns. Remember, proactive programs are implemented to prevent future injuries and illnesses.

Check out some examples of proactive safety and health programs.

10. Which of the following strategies costs less in the long term and focuses on preventing accidents?

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

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 thing: They're not.


Goals short unstructured 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"

SMART Operational Objectives

On the other hand, objectives are structured statements that provide much more detail. Objectives should structured so that they're 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.

Action-oriented objectives are also called operational objectives should describe specific job-related actions that can be measured. The results should be achievable and relevant, or important, to the company. And finally, the objective should set a time limit.

How to Write an Operational Objective

However, operational objectives take a little more thought.

Objectives should have the following elements present:

  • Starts with an action verb. (Decrease, increase, improve, etc.)
  • Specifies a single key result to be accomplished.
  • Is quantifiable. Uses numbers to measure a desired change. (i.e., 50% increase)
  • Specifies a target date for accomplishment.

For example, operational safety objectives might be written like this:

  • "Increase the number of safety suggestions to 25 a month by July 31st."
  • "Reduce the number of back injuries in the warehouse by 70% by the end of 1997."

Remember to 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

Know the costs and benefits of safety.
Know the costs and benefits of safety.
(Click to enlarge)

Talk Money... The Bottom Line

Have you ever proposed a recommendation to correct a hazard or improve a procedure, only to have it fall on what appears to be deaf ears? Odds are, management cares very much about safety and health in the workplace, but like you, they are very busy. When a busy manager receives a recommendation from the safety committee, and it's merely a vague one-liner like, "We need to install a new guardrail in the warehouse," the likely response might be to put it on the back burner.

Dan Petersen, Author of Safety Management : A Human Approach, states that, "Management is first of all interested in how the safety professional's ideas relate to the profits of the organization. That is, what will management get in return for the money it is being asked to spend? Thus, safety people ought to be dollar-oriented when talking to management. Even if management understands the language of frequency and severity rates, dollar indicators ought to be used instead."

12. According to Dan Petersen, management is first of all interested in how the safety professional's ideas relate to _____.

a. workers compensation
c. safety
d. profits

Next Section

Commitment is time and money.
Direct vs. Indirect Costs
(Click to enlarge)

Effective recommendations describe costs and benefits

When talking to management about the bottom line benefits of safety, it's important that they understand the relationship between indirect and direct accident costs.

  • Direct Costs are medical costs and indemnity payments.
  • Indirect 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 injuries is more than $40,000, and fatalities average 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.
  • If accidents occur at capital intensive operation where large sums have been invested in facilities, it's likely that higher indirect/direct cost ratios will be experienced.
  • If accidents occur at labor intensive operations where more investment is made in labor than capital assets, lower indirect/direct cost ratios will likely be experienced.

To calculate how safety pays for you, check out OSHA's Safety Pays webpage.

13. 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 that can be helpful in determining direct and indirect cost.

Annual Return on Investment (ROI) in Percent


Management may ask you what the Return on Investment (ROI) will be for an investment in safety. Let's say you recommend a $1,000 investment in taking corrective action to eliminate a hazard that could cause an injury resulting in accident costs of $28,000. To determine the ROI, divide $28,000 by $1,000 which gives you 28. To express it as a percentage, multiply 28 by 100 and you discover that the ROI is 2800 percent.

Payback Period in Months


Management may also want to know how quickly the $1,000 investment will be paid back: what the Payback Period is. To determine the payback period, divide the accident cost of $28,000 by 12 months (1 year) and you arrive at $2,333 per month in potential accident costs. Divide the investment of $1,000 by monthly accident cost of $2,333 and you'll see that the $1,000 investment will be paid back in only .43 months. After that, the investment is actually saving the company money.

If you want, take a closer look at some key elements of an effective recommendation.

Plan the Work, Work the Plan

Now you have some ammunition to help motivate and increase top management commitment to make an investment 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).

14. If an investment of $1,000 is needed to correct a hazard that is certain to cause an accident within one year, and the employer would realize a total cost of $25,000 to cover the accident, what would the Return on Investment (ROI) in percent be? Hint: (COST ÷ INVESTMENT) X 100

a. 25 percent
b. 250 percent
c. 2,500 percent
d. 25,000 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.

Next Module
OSHAcademy Ultimate Guide Banner Ad