Ever been called “the safety police”?
If so, you know it’s not exactly a compliment, in most cases.
“This is someone who probably gained this name because they are a ‘by-the-book’ safety person,” explains Linda Light, a Safety Expert and OSHA-authorized trainer who has more than 20 years’ safety training experience focusing on workplace safety and OSHA compliance.
It may be because it’s something you envision makes you a good safety leader, says Light, but to be as successful as possible in your role, you’ll want to think beyond the rule book.
Are You a Safety Leader or the ‘Safety Police’?
A true safety leader goes beyond the rule book. “The most effective safety leaders develop personal skills that will help him/her be more of a visionary and think more globally with regards to safety in the workplace,” explains Light.
These safety leaders, as opposed to “safety policy,” go past compliance, processes and procedures, until they get to the people on the job. They may still be communicating and sharing rules with workers, but it’s done with a bigger picture in mind.
“When you just have a lip service/paper program, then it usually gets evaluated by checking the box,” adds Light. But best-in-class organizations are able to drill down and ask not just “Did we do it?” but, “How do we do it?”
The “how” is where there is room for improvement, and the area that separates so-called “safety police” from effective safety leaders. Five areas to start to evaluate include:
1. New hires.
Light says a proactive, effective safety leader is one who asks and answers, “How can I best help new hires understand the importance of safety on the job?” Best-in-class safety leaders take pride in this process and in on-boarding new workers to that they are set up for success in the workplace.
It goes without saying that safety leaders looks beyond the rule book when it comes to preventing incidents in the workplace. They look to encourage behavior-based safety practices and they seek ways to minimize complacency, prevent accidents and injuries. “Safety is more than the rule book, and effective safety leaders know this.”
3. Continual improvement.
This is an area where an analysis of your training, processes and the tech and tools you are using to support safety can come into play. Effective safety leaders are able to continually ask, “What can I do to help others improve in their current position?” says Light.
4. Involvement across the organization.
To what extent are others in the organization involved with promoting safety and health? “Safety is a team effort. It also relies on how employees connect and interact on the job,” says Light. If it’s all on one person, that person can be more likely to be looked upon by others as the “safety police.”
When safety is a team effort, everyone is doing their part, and it’s seen as an authentic value of the organization. “Management can hold middle managers and frontline supervisors and employees accountable, but in the sense that everyone can be proud of the safe and healthy environment that’s been created,” explains Light. There’s a shared responsibility for everyone, and safety is a part of everyone’s job.
5. Response to high risk situations or accident/injury.
Safety leaders look to spot and predict high risk situations, and they take pride in helping support an engaged workforce. Do you have the ability to compile and complete incident reports onsite if an incident does occur? Do you have a fault-finding culture or a problem-solving mentality? If workers share information about safety risks, how do leaders in the company respond and how is the information used?
It comes back to the actions behind the word “safety.”
“If safety as a value is incorporated into the fabric of what leaders and workers do day-to-day, then they do those things regardless of whether anybody’s there, and regardless of if any safety director or risk manager is present,” says Light. This ability to be proactive and to respond in a timely, consistent, and accurate way is a sign of an accountable, safe and healthy culture.
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About Linda Light
Linda Light, Safety Expert and OSHA-authorized trainer, has more than 20 years of safety training experience focusing on workplace safety and OSHA compliance. Light provides training through 10 and 30 Hour OSHA Outreach courses for General Industry and Construction. She works with companies to integrate safety into organizational systems, benefiting companies in the short and long term. Learn more about her safety training solutions here.