Safety Culture and Behavioral Safety

Coaching Safety Teamwork: Everybody Wins

Today we turn to the world of sports for some tips on how you can build and run a winning safety team.

Teamwork is a beautiful thing to see. When players work as a team, they usually win. When they don’t, they often lose. The same holds true for safety in the workplace — when employees work as a team, everybody stays safe. When they don’t, accidents and injuries occur.

An article in the OSHA Required Training for Supervisors monthly newsletter details how you can adapt coaching and teamwork principles from the world of sports to improve safety in your workplace.

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Qualities of a Winning Safety Team

You may supervise a group of employees, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you supervise a team. There’s a big difference between a group of people who happen to work side by side and a team that works together. Here are some essential characteristics of a team:

  • Shared mission. On sports teams, players focus on scoring and winning. On work teams, your employees should focus on identifying hazards, working safely, and preventing accidents.

  • Commitment to same goals. To keep safe on the job, workers have to understand safety goals and commit to achieving them. Everybody has to work together toward the same goals to achieve success and prevent injuries.

  • Participation. Effective team players don’t sit on the sidelines or the bench. The same is true on the job. Get employees involved in safety programs and in efforts to improve workplace safety.

  • Interdependence. Team members depend on one another to identify hazards, follow safety procedures, and prevent accidents.

  • Communication. Because team members are interdependent, they are constantly communicating, sharing information, giving warnings, reinforcing safe behavior, and talking up safety.

To mold your workers into an effective safety team, instill these qualities in each member of the team. And then you need to coach, coach, coach.

How to Become a Winning Coach

Even though he or she doesn’t actually play, a good coach is the heart of any sports team. The same is true of a workplace safety team. With your goal-setting, motivation, and support, your employees become a strong and effective team. Here’s a winning game plan:

  • Get employees fired up about safety. Make safety a priority. Talk about it every day and hold weekly safety meetings to discuss new information, problems, and solutions.

  • Provide top-notch training and information. Demonstrate, discuss, practice, and review. Drills, skill building, and knowledge transfer will mold raw material with potential into a tight-knit team that has what it takes to execute safety procedures and prevent accidents.

  • Make sure they have all the right equipment. You wouldn’t send football or hockey players out without their pads and helmets. You shouldn’t send your work team out without all required PPE and training for proper use.

  • Make sure everybody gets to play. Get all employees involved in hazard detection, problem solving, and decision making. Everybody has something to contribute to a safer workplace.

  • Encourage suggestions. Employees know a lot about their jobs, and if you’ve trained them well, they know a lot about safety, too. Listen to their ideas for making the workplace safer.

  • Reinforce behavior. A coach’s job is never done, of course. You have to be there on the sidelines to give positive feedback for safe performance and to correct unsafe acts.

On Board from Day One

New players need to feel they’re part of the team from their first day on the job–especially since statistics show that the first few weeks on the job are the most dangerous for new employees. So don’t let your new players get sidelined by an accident before they have a chance to make their mark.

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Emphasize safety orientation and cover all these basics:

  • Safety policies

  • Emergency procedures

  • Workplace/job hazards

  • Safe work practices

  • Required PPE

  • Proper use of equipment

  • Safe lifting

  • Safe housekeeping rules

  • Workplace security procedures and systems

  • How to report safety problems/emergencies

In tomorrow’s Advisor we’ll give you some tips for developing a winning training program for your safety team, and we’ll  look at a tool that helps ensure your workers have the right attitude toward safety.