The Challenge: Leadership

Let's face it, in many companies there is a gap between what is said about safety and what is done. Even when safety excellence is a stated goal, there are two basic problems the safety professional encounters:

  • People in the organization don't always understand what is required of them, and/or

  • People don't make the necessary changes in their own behavior for the goal to become reality.

There are many familiar examples. Executives don't allocate funds for an important safety project, nor do they discuss safety in their staff meetings; managers and supervisors get caught up in meeting production demands and look the other way when they see a safety problem; employees don't always adhere to safety procedures; engineering or maintenance don't correct safety deficiencies quickly enough; and training programs are often poorly implemented due to a lack of organizational commitment. Sometimes, employees mistrust management so much they don't participate in the safety effort at all.

We all know that to be successful in safety, you have to get things done through others. In his book, Brining Out The Best In People, Aubrey Daniels, Ph.D. has captured the essence of the safety professional's challenge when he titled one of the sections: "Surprise! People don't do what you tell them to do."

The safety professional has to do more than just tell people what to do. Yourjob is to lead the executives, middle managers, supervisors, engineers, other staff personnel and employees in your organization to safety. But how do you mobilize all these different constituencies to be proactive about safety issues? How do you get each person to do their part? How do you change the culture so that all personnel become active participants in the safety effort?

Certainly this is a very difficult job. Justbeing "good" in safety requires superior technical, managerial, communication and interpersonal skills. Being"excellent" also requires a comprehensive strategy. Thispaper lays out a trademarked 6-step strategy (Leading The Way To SafetyTM.) and some principles that the safety professional can use to achieve safety excellence.

Communicate The Need For Change

Albert Einstein is attributed with saying that the definition of lunacy is to "keep doing the same things and expect different results." This is a thought-provoking way of telling us that if we want to get different results, people are going to have to do something different!

But before people will change, they have to be convinced there is a need for change.So communicating the need for change is an important part of our job as safety professionals. And our main targets are at the top of the organization chart. Executives and key managers must recognize the need for change so necessary resources (time, people and money) are made available for the safety effort.

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