Change the way that your workers see the consequences of not working safely!
There is a common misconception that the safety person is going to keep people safe at the workplace. Not so! Managers and direct supervisors are ultimately responsible for their workers’ safety.
How do we move supervisors and their workers away from this flawed thinking?
The Safety Team's role should be to assist managers and supervisors. We are in a unique position to guide them on their journey. We can help them become safety leaders and teach them the skills to keep their team safe. And above all else, we provide the ongoing support and resources they need to integrate safety with production.
In today's safety tip video, David Brennan, Co-founder of Safety Evolution talks about his experiences as a safety professional. One of the common themes was that managers were responsible for the production and the safety team was responsible for safety.
The nickname for safety was the Department of Production Prevention.
David outlines the tools that he used to change the way supervisors saw their role in safety. He used a framework of:
How To Change The Way Supervisors See Their Role In Workplace Safety
Because supervisors direct, control, and instruct workers as they perform their tasks and duties, they carry the weight of both production and safety. Those in a supervisor role have very specific and legislated safety responsibilities.
Before the safety professional can begin teaching and supporting supervisors, we first need to learn and understand. Talk to the supervisors and ask questions about the job scope and daily tasks, especially any that you may not be familiar with. Be interested!
Start by asking “open-ended” questions to find out about the supervisor’s knowledge of their safety responsibilities. Encourage open discussion about hazards and safety concerns that the supervisor may have. Make suggestions that will help the supervisor incorporate safety into the daily tasks of the workers for whom they are responsible.
Keep your questions conversational. Remember, you are building rapport and trust that will aid in the following ways:
- You will have the information that shows you where to start. What are the gaps?
- You will have built the foundation to bring your supervisors into a safety leadership role.
This is your chance to start adding to their knowledge as well as changing the perspective that production and safety are two separate paths. Narrow that gap between production and safety! Many people have a mindset that safety slows down production. The truth is that a strong safety program speeds up production!
Use the information you gathered to start teaching your supervisors and managers to be the safety leaders they deserve to be.
“This sounds way easier than I know it will be”, you are probably thinking! And you are right!
Resistance to change is a normal response. When you are heading into a conversation about change, be prepared for push-back. As a safety professional, you probably have a good idea of some of the “triggers” that bring resistance to change. Draw your supervisor or workers back into the conversation or teaching topic by asking questions. Fine our WHY they don’t agree? Listen to their point of view. Address each concern without argument or judgment. Keep your conversation in that “sweet spot” of discussion as you present safer alternatives or legislated requirements.
Support them as they take on this new role. You will have gained a lot of trust and buy-in from your supervisors and workers during the Learning/Understanding and Teaching process. Now you have the opportunity to keep your supervisors ahead of the safety curve!
Become their safety mentor and teach them safety techniques.
Help them with compliance. Provide them with the safety resources they need to be successful.
Ensure that you have suggestions and resources ready for your supervisors well before weekly, monthly, or annual safety meetings and toolbox talks.
Keep ahead of Client requirements by providing your supervisor with the information for analytics reports or safety performance reviews.
Encourage a collaborative approach as your supervisor moves into safety leadership:
- “Be There” for your supervisors and workers. Remember, you are that valuable “second set of eyes”.
- Let your actions say “When it comes to safety, I’ve got your back”
Safety Tip: Use the Personal Safety Involvement Framework To Learn, Teach & Support
Who really hurts when things go wrong in the workplace?
We have all met with the safety-resistant worker who is sidestepping the hazard controls or safe work practices in place at the job site. How do you move that employee away from their “gotta get ‘er done” mindset?
Here is how to change the way that your workers see the consequences of not working safely.
- Active Listening - Give your full attention and listen intently to what the person is saying. Do not try to fill the silence. Don't impose your opinion or solutions. Don't interrupt. Ask questions!
- Open-ended Questions - An open-ended question is a question that requires a full answer, using the subject's own knowledge or feelings. Do not lead the person being asked. Example. What would happen if you fell from the ladder?
- Let Them Speak - It is easier to speak than listen. Fight the urge to help them get to where you want them to go. The goal is for you to let them speak and only ask open direct questions. They tell the story and you participate by asking questions.
- Get The “Blood on the Floor” - it is important to get the person to communicate the worst-case scenario to you. It may take a few questions to get them there. You want them to say what could really happen to them. If you fell, what is the worst thing that could happen to you?
- Commitment & Handshake - By getting a commitment you are entering into a partnership. They understand who it will affect and they are committing to you that they will protect themselves for everyone.
Download the Personal Safety Involvement to add to your safety toolbox. Use it to change a dangerous situation into a learning opportunity.
Partner with your supervisors. The divisive approach of Safety on one side and Production on the other is a recipe for frustration and potential disaster.
As a Safety professional, building relationships with your supervisors and workers is not always an easy task. Implement the building blocks we have provided here!. Over time, you will see the “never the twain shall meet” paths of Safety and Production merging into a unified and strong safety system!
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