Management Leadership is the fundamental building block to a strong safety culture. While much has been written about management leadership, safety management leadership is best defined in industry best practices including ISO 45001, ANSI-Z10 Occupational Safety and Health Management Systems, and OSHA’s Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs.
Safety leadership starts at the highest level of management in an organization and permeates through all other managers leading work. Safety leadership is vital for achieving organizational safety goals. Why? Because employees look for leaders to visibly demonstrate their commitment to safety and leaders exert influence on employees through positive interactions. If leaders are not driving the safety culture in your organization, then who is?
First, let us define a leader in the context of a management system: A leader is anyone who has at least one person directly reporting to them. Specifically, to be considered a leader, you must have a follower that you formally hold authority. In this article, we focus on leveraging EHS (Environmental, Health, and Safety) software technology to enhance management leadership in your safety and health program. These insights can be put to good use by leaders such as safety practitioners, operational managers, and supervisors. Informal leaders in an organization can also benefit from this process, however, the approach would be quite different and could be a topic of another article entirely.
Now that we have established some background, we can begin discussing the five ways to enhance management leadership in your safety and health program starting with establishing safety as a core organizational value.
1. Make worker safety and health a core organizational value.
Good leaders recognize safety as a core value in addition to having a goal of zero injuries. A safety value is absolute and should never be compromised no matter what priorities or projects get in the way. A successful safety program starts with a written policy where safety is a value that drives the entire organization to improve safety continuously and proactively. The policy should integrate safety and health into all business operations, be shared, communicated, and understood by all including contractors and visitors.
Once safety as a value is established through policy, you can identify the outcome or results you are seeking (or that the leaders are accountable for). The results that a specific site is responsible for are typically tied to the company's vision, mission, and goals. Often, the organization has already defined what key performance indicators (KPIs) they will use to measure success and these KPIs are duplicated at individual sites. Good leaders know the result they want, set targets, outline the actions necessary to produce the result, and take measurements. In this way, they can change what people are doing to produce that result.
With the advent of EHS software technology, paper systems historically used in safety and health program activities can be eliminated and the measurement of safety performance automated to produce metrics in real-time. This technology eliminates wasted time and energy typically exhausted by safety personnel, allowing them to gain insights into data and coach the workforce.
Customers utilizing Safework Suite™ benefit from automated dashboards that aggregate safety observations and program activities such as employee participation in proactive safety observation processes like behavior-based safety, hazard identification, inspection, and stop work authority program activities. It is difficult to track measurements without technology like EHS management software (and you cannot manage what you do not measure). Safework Suite™ allows leaders to see how well the organization is performing the safety activities that are intended to produce results so you can set expectations, assign responsibilities, provide direction for action, and manage accountabilities.
2. Commit to eliminating hazards, protecting workers, and continuous safety improvement.
As mentioned, safety should be an organizational value that drives a proactive safety culture in the workplace, meaning, one that focuses on action instead of reaction. With a focus on improving safety and measuring the effort, the organization can effectively pursue a vision of zero incidents.
To achieve this, good leaders establish, implement, and maintain processes for hazard identification such as periodic inspections, hazard reporting programs, behavior-based safety observations, and near miss reporting. They encourage participation at all levels of the organization and track what people are doing daily to prevent accidents. When hazards are reported, good leaders focus on risk potential to drive the actions necessary to eliminate the hazard. They recognize that each reported hazard or opportunity for safety improvement must be addressed using a system to track actions necessary to eliminate or reduce risk. Taking actions to control hazards is the payoff of the activities you perform to discover and identify hazards.
Before EHS software technology, the tracking of hazard controls including assignment of actions to individuals, commitment dates, and follow-up were daunting tasks manually managed with spreadsheets. Today, technology makes this critical business process easy to manage and track hazard mitigation.
Safework Solutions customers benefit
from EHS software technology by using our Corrective Action Tracking tool where continuous improvement can be tracked through mitigations and risk levels. The Safework Suite™ Corrective Action Tracker is linked to other modules (e.g., Inspection tool, Hazard Reporting tool, Stop Work Authority tool, Incident and Near Miss tools) and automatically create corrective actions for at-risk conditions. Each corrective action is then assigned, tracked, and closed within the corrective action tracker software. The corrective actions provide leaders with key insights into continuous improvement and produce the artifacts to support improvements in the safety program.
Check out Safework Suite™ Corrective Action Tracker EHS software solution and see how a new corrective action is created, what can be included in a corrective action log, and how the tool’s KPI dashboard is used to track continuous improvement.
3. Provide sufficient resources to implement and maintain safety and health programs
Leaders provide the resources needed to implement the safety and health program. Resource needs will not be the same for all organizations and may include equipment, supplies, time, training, or access to information. Managers and supervisors can elevate their leadership in the safety and health program by taking advantage of the benefits of EHS software technology.
EHS software technology is a cost-effective solution to simplify the safety and health program implementation and maintenance. Technology creates a unique opportunity to engage workers in safety, demonstrate the organizational safety values to internal and external stakeholders, and ultimately produce the results intended through safety business processes.
Check out Berry Bros. General Contractor's story where EHS software has produced a threefold return on investment through lower worker compensation costs.
4. Visibly demonstrate and communicate their commitment to safety to others.
So far, we have discussed making safety a core value, focusing on proactive hazard elimination and continuous improvement, and providing the resources needed for the organization to achieve results. Next, we will cover how safety leaders need to be visible to demonstrate their commitment to safety. Traditional methods of visible management support for safety are well established such as: being visible in the workplace, making safety observations, talking to workers about safety, starting meetings with safety on the agenda, wearing appropriate PPE (personal protective equipment), and publicly praising individuals for working safely.
Stop Work Authority programs (or the Right to Stop the Job) have become industry-accepted practices. Safework Suite™ Stop Work Authority tool provides a highly visible and effective means to communicate safety. Within the tool, there are dedicated landing pages where users can view message boards, share ‘good catches’ or reported hazards, and instances of employees exercising their Stop Work Authority rights.
Additionally, policy information can be posted for employees to download from any mobile or desktop device. Leaderboards show the top 10 employees that have participated in the Stop Work Authority program. For each reported Stop Work event, the software generates an email to the originator of the event, notifying of corrective actions taken. Reporting and analytics also provide insights into outliers where program performance can be further evaluated.
Leaders can also communicate safety commitment by participating in nationally designated safety events throughout the year, like OSHA’s Safe & Sound focus during August. As an added resource, Safework Solutions has developed a Safework Events Calendar featuring national and global EHS awareness campaigns. Download a free copy of the 2021 Safework Events Calendar and check out upcoming safety events that your organization can participate in. The Safework Events Calendar is a resource that leaders can utilize to increase safety awareness while promoting commitment to safety and health.
5. Set the example through their own actions.
One of the biggest killers to safety culture is when upper management is visible in the workplace but not following established safety practices. Something as simple as not wearing a hard hat even though no overhead hazards are present will send the wrong message to the workforce. The same holds for line management and supervisors who enforce safety rules but also break them.
Setting an example also means talking about safety with line workers and recognizing good behavior and participation by employees. Leaders should dedicate time each day to commend progress and share observations from the team, which were cascaded across the workforce, encouraging an open-door safety culture and dialogue. This feedback will inspire more employees to suggest safety improvements willingly and enthusiastically because they know their voices will be heard.
Leaders, supervisors, and safety representatives setting an example and engaging the workforce is key to helping employees recognize management commitment to safety. Over time, recognition of suggesting safety improvements can lead to a sense of well-being and, in turn, produce exceptional quality, increase productivity, and innovation.
A key feature used by Safework Solutions customers is gamification. Gamification is an excellent way for leaders to encourage and energize employee involvement in the safety and health program by recognizing participation. Safework Suite™ EHS Software has built-in gaming elements designed to influence employees’ participation by utilizing:
· Top 10 employee leaderboards
· Point scoring and quality rating
· Achievement badges and levels
· Real-time performance reporting
· Peer-to-peer competition
· Sharing of employee reported hazards
Of OSHA’s seven core elements, management leadership is undoubtedly one of the most essential elements for a successful safety and health program because it trickles down through all other core elements. Organizations see the most success in their programs when managers are fully committed, establish safety as a value, place safety and health objectives above all others, proactively and continuously improve safety, demonstrate visibility, and set an example through actions.
Managers at all levels provide the vision and resources needed for workers to implement the program. Transitioning your program to an EHS software system drives management leadership in safety and health. That is why Safework Solution, LLC created Safework SuiteTM: To solve the challenges of complicated management systems while aligning software tools to the core elements of recognized best practices for occupational safety and health programs.
If you are looking to enhance management leadership in your safety and health program, look no further than Safework Suite™.
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