What makes a leader? Is it charisma? Natural talent? The truth is, the best safety leaders aren’t those who are naturally brilliant or inhumanly dedicated. The best safety leaders are the managers and supervisors who inspire their colleagues to truly believe in safety and practice it in the workplace.
If you want to inspire true change in your workplace, here are three essential safety leadership tips for EHS professionals who are ready to spearhead the fight for a safer work environment.
The best safety leaders know that safety isn’t a question of software, equipment, or policies. At its heart, safety is about people.
This is important to understand because many people (including EHS professionals) think of safety as a series of rules. Considering how many local, state, and federal regulations are attached to the safety business, this is a logical assumption at first blush.
However, reducing safety to a cluster of rules misses the point – that all these rules are really about protecting people. Plus, any safety professional who’s spent any time in the industry knows that wieldy a rulebook isn’t an effective way to get employees to comply.
The best safety leaders are those who look beyond the obvious, who recognize the human element in safety and teach safety to their colleagues as a human concern. Tell stories about your family, ask workers to share their own stories, attach a human face to safety rules.
Be an Educator, Not a Cop
On a related note, the best safety leaders aren’t cops doling out warnings and hefting around a rulebook like a shield. They’re educators, advocates, and protectors.
What we’re talking about is emotional intelligence, or the ability to effectively identify and manage emotions. How you interact with people shapes how they perceive you, which in turn shapes their willingness to listen to you.
Yes, there is a time and a place to be the safety police, but being a safety cop will only get you short-term compliance, not long-term cultural changes.
Instead of emphasizing the rules, focus on caring for your colleagues. Always focus on safety as a way to get everyone home to their families each night, not a punitive measure to prevent bad behavior.
Care About Safety 24/7/365
Last but not least, the best safety leaders are those who know that the shift may end, but their work does not. In fact, safety is one of the few things that you should care about at all times.
This isn’t just about taking the job home. It’s about treating safety as a life skill that will protect employees even when they’re off the clock, a mindset that will serve them well regardless of where they go. More than that, a mindset of safety is one of the best ways to protect those around you – including your family.
If you encourage workers to view safety as a 24/7 life skill rather than a job task, they’re more likely to be watchful at all times, which means they can do a better job of protecting everyone around them. And that’s what you need to create a safety culture that truly lasts.
Want More Leadership Tips?
There are dozens of leadership tips available out there, but at the end of the day, safety leadership is about being dedicated to what matters most: the health and safety of your workers. And that means doing whatever it takes to ensure the people you rely on can go home to their families every single day.
Want more leadership tips to strengthen your whole team from the inside out? Make sure to check out our blog for more great posts, like these key habits of great workplace safety professionals.