Because health and safety tend to operate alongside the hierarchical management structure of an organization (a situation sometimes conceptualized as an “information silo,” suggesting a degree of isolation), safety professionals may not think of themselves as leaders. But that doesn’t mean that safety professionals can’t implement the same leadership practices that company managers use to increase their effectiveness in the workplace.
The concept of safety leadership has been much more fully developed abroad, in Europe and Australia, than it has in the United States. Let’s take a look at some information you can put to immediate use.
Be a Leader
Fortunately for health and safety professionals who are not managers in a strict sense—that is, having direct authority over a group of people directly involved in production or services—management and leadership are not the same thing. What’s the difference between a manager and a leader?
Essentially, according to the Leadership and Worker Engagement Forum of Great Britain’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the difference is one of vision versus execution.
- Leaders are capable of creating a vision, communicating their vision to others, and encouraging others to commit to their vision. That commitment gives rise to motivation, innovation, and adaptation that can help bring the vision about.
- Managers have a much more pragmatic function. Managers are responsible for planning, scheduling, resource allocation, and progress evaluation.
Although it’s possible for one individual to do both jobs, it’s important to understand the difference between the two.
The Effect of Good Leadership
Skillful health and safety leadership has multiple benefits for an organization. The measurable impact of good leadership on your organization includes:
- Building workers’ safety knowledge. Before workers can know it, you have to know it. If you’re not up on the latest developments in your field; if you can’t make the case that safe workers are more productive workers; if you don’t know how to properly analyze the hazards of the job, how are you going to pass that information along to them?
- Strengthening workers’ motivation. If you don’t care, why would they? Let your passion for safety and health—specifically, for your workers’ safety and health—be an example for your employees. One of the things a leader does well is motivate others.
- Increasing compliance with safety rules. Workers who know more, and who are more motivated, will be better about complying with safety rules—so when you’ve laid the leadership groundwork, it organically gives rise to the outcome you’re looking for.
- Encouraging proactive safety behaviors. Have you had a tough time in the past getting workers involved in proactive efforts like safety committee participation? Strong leadership that enhances workers’ knowledge and strengthens workers’ motivation will have a positive effect on these efforts as well.
Are you a Senior-level Safety professional looking for a complimentary networking event?
This 2-day, complimentary event helps you tackle your top challenges through a mixture of:
- One-on-one meetings with solution providers,
- Thought provoking workshops, and
- Networking opportunities with peers.
Your free registration includes event costs, workshops, meals, and hotel.