Turn Your Supervisors into Safety Role Models

May 26, 2014 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

In the safest workplaces, supervisors aren’t just safety rule enforcers, they’re also safety role models.
Employees’ behavior on the job is significantly influenced by the way their supervisors think and act about workplace safety. Studies show that supervisors’ effectiveness in accident prevention is dependent on the behavior they model for employees.
If workers believe that supervisors are strongly committed to safety, they will be, too. Conversely, if supervisors are sloppy about safety, the workers they supervise are likely to be as well.
Showing a strong commitment and modeling good, safe behavior involve many issues for your supervisors, including:
• Establishing safety as a priority for all jobs
• Making safety-minded decisions
• Providing all the necessary safety equipment and motivating employees to use it
• Investigating accidents thoroughly and correcting the problems they uncover
• Inspecting the work areas they supervise routinely and promptly eliminating hazards
• Facilitating necessary employee safety and health training
• Working with employees and getting them involved in solving problems and improving workplace safety
• Welcoming employee suggestions for making the job safer
• Listening earnestly when employees complain about hazards and taking action to correct them
Talking Up Safety
Safety role models also talk about safety—a lot. Encourage your supervisors to take every opportunity to provide feedback and communicate information about safety to employees—not just at weekly safety meetings or during training sessions, but every day.
For example, if a supervisor is walking through a work area and sees employees wearing required PPE and following safety procedures, he or she should stop for a minute and praise the crew for being safety-minded.
Following the Rules
Modeling safe behavior also means that supervisors have to follow all the safety rules themselves. “Do as I say, not as I do” doesn’t work on the job any more than it does at home. Remember that employees can imitate unsafe behavior just as easily as they can emulate safe behavior.
So if, for example, workers see a supervisor walking through an area where eye protection is required and the supervisor isn’t wearing safety glasses, employees are likely to pick up on the negative safety message and figure they don’t have to wear required PPE either. Or, if a supervisor clears a jammed machine without turning it off, even though the rule says the machine should be shut down first, employees are likely to imitate the unsafe, rather than the safe, behavior in the future.
Build Supervisor Commitment
If your front-line supervisors are not fully committed to ensuring a safe environment or aren’t properly trained on how to do it, your safety program will have limited success. This truth applies in the same way as it does for success in quality and production. The supervisor is the critical linchpin.
In the last few years OSHA has more vigorously prosecuted companies and supervisors for violations of OSHA regulations. Thus, it’s clear that the supervisor’s role is especially critical to successful day-to-day safety performance and ensuring that supervisors have as top priorities a clear understanding of their safety responsibilities, the necessary tools (including management support) to be successful, and the needed training for superior performance.

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