Safety just won’t happen without effective leadership

Some have argued that leadership may be almost the single most powerful component of workplace culture[1]. Therefore, it follows that effective leadership is also important for safety practices to function at their best. We’ve found this to be pretty bang on. Our consultants often find that a poor workplace culture and poor safety performance, usually goes hand-in-hand with poor leadership.


While, this may be obvious to some – it isn’t to all. Often it can be organisational leaders themselves who are not acutely aware of their pivotal role in developing the workplace culture that promotes a safe work environment. So, if you’re a leader and thinking “Geez, I gotta get onto this” – or if you play a bit of an influential role with the leaders in your workplace – read on to learn how leaders can better promote a stronger safety culture.


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Just why is leadership so important in building a strong safety culture?


Well, it’s the actions of leaders that set a personal example for desired workplace behaviour. Leaders can be very influential when they are seen by workers to follow and promote established safety rules, policies, procedures and standards.


Wise words from a safety guru:


“Top management must be committed to excellence and drive the agenda by establishing a vision, values and goals.”[2] James Meville Stewart, author of Managing for World Class Safety.


Wise words from one of our gurus:


“What interests my manager, fascinates me.” Craig Salter (most likely paraphrased from somewhere on the internet).


What do leaders need to succeed in building a strong safety culture?


  • Leaders must possess both the desire to act and a clear understanding of the specific behaviours that lead to excellent safety performance.
  • Leaders should focus on determining and then representing the values and behaviours required to strengthen workplace practices.
  • Leaders must not only say the right things, they must actively drive the development, implementation and enforcement of safety management systems to keep it moving.
  • Leaders should seek advice from safety professionals to guide and advise on an evidence-based approach to health and safety management, suited to their business.
  • Leaders should be involved in safety meetings and regularly include safety in their conversations and communications.


So if you are adopting the “do as I say, not as I do” approach to safety leadership – you are way off the mark. Chances are, you’re not developing a culture. Even if you are punishing those workers caught working outside “your rules” and even if they are appropriate controls in and of themselves, it simply won’t bring about the culture you are after you if you don’t adopt the rules yourself.


Put simply, if you don’t need to follow the rules, why should others?



As a leader, just how do you change safety culture for the better?


Whilst it is usually found that an organisation cannot change the core beliefs of the individuals within it, an organisational leader can certainly change the core culture of the collective. This is done by not only saying, but also doing. This is done by leaders adhering to the rules they lay out for everyone.


They must exemplify the change they wish to see in the workplace.


If in reading this, you are thinking “I need to do better” or that the leaders in your organisation need to do better, you’re probably right. Because, after all, all of us have the right to come to a workplace that protects our health and safety. The ignorance of leadership in your organisation may indeed be negatively affecting you, your colleagues and the leaders themselves.


And if you need a little help with implementing a health and safety management system to work alongside your strong safety leadership, contact us today!


[1] Simon, S.I. and R.A. Carrillo. Improving Safety Performance Through Cultural Interventions. In Safety Health & Asset Protection: Management Essentials, R.W. Lack, 2nd Edition. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 2002.

[2] Stewart, J.M. Managing for World Class Safety. New York. John Wiley & Sons, 2002.


5 ways leaders can get safety really moving in 2019

You may have read our recent blog Safety just won’t happen without effective leadership a little while ago. In that article we argued that for safety culture to work and work well, it needs the support and influence of the leaders in an organisation. This is one of the most critical components for the assurance of an effective safety culture.


We’d almost go so far as to confidently say, if you don’t have the support of your leadership team as you develop and implement safety practices, you’re up for a hard slog. Sorry to say – and it breaks our heart as super pro-safety people – but we’ve seen it time and time again. Your leaders must be in full support of your safety program if you want your safety culture to really thrive.


So – what can you do about building a stronger safety culture?

If you are a leader, or you have great influence on the leaders in your workplace, read on. These are the behaviours that we’d suggest the leaders in your organisation should take on to promote safety excellence:


1. Set expectations.

Just like leaders do in other facets of business, leaders must translate their vision for safety into clear expectations and accountabilities, and filter this through all levels of the organisation. This provides a platform to enforce rewards, recognition and consequences, which will ultimately drive better behaviours and stronger safety culture.


2. Educate and train.

Leaders must provide education, training and resources to their people to ensure that employees are fully prepared and ready for excellence in safety performance. It is not enough to set the goals and then leave staff without the tools they need to succeed. Education starts at induction, then training should consider both operational specific skills and knowledge (i.e. how to do a work task) and process specific skills and knowledge (i.e. how to ensure policies or procedures are successfully implemented).


3. Power to the people.

By taking on points 1 and 2, leaders are well on their way with empowering their people to succeed. But leaders also must give their people the authority, flexibility and partnership they require to perform and achieve. This involves trust and (if you are one of those types) relinquishing control. In the words of Elsa from ‘Frozen‘ – “let it go”!

safety champion safety software safety culture tips for leaders


4. Encourage.

Leaders absolutely must continuously inspire, reassure and encourage their people to strive for excellence and meet organisational targets. It’s not enough to do this once at the beginning of the year and forget about it. Your people will lose focus on safety if leaders are not keeping it top of mind year-round.


5. Check in.

Leaders need to measure, monitor and review the effectiveness of their safety goals and make any necessary changes as they go. There’s no point without this step, quite frankly.


That’s it from us – our two cents. If you are an aspiring leader in safety, take on the above advice and you will be better placed to succeed, along with your people and your entire safety management system. And if you are looking for a software system to help you implement the nitty gritty of your safety program with ease, so you can focus on the bigger stuff outlined above, give us a bell at Safety Champion or jot down your details here and we’ll be in contact.


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Who is responsible for health and safety anyway?

You might find it surprising – but in today’s modern working world it’s not just management, risk teams, and health and safety specialists that have to think about health and safety in the workplace. Everyone has their part to play in living the mantra of “work safe, home safe”. This is how we make sure that everyone goes home safely at the end of each day.

Having a good level of health and safety awareness is key to maintaining an effective safety culture in your workplace. But how do you bring your people on board with this stuff when it all seems too complicated and really just not engaging enough. Well, the trick is to help health and safety responsibilities become naturally embedded in the day-to-day activities of all staff. Aim to be implicit [1] with safety, not explicit. [2]


Well, here are our 3 top tips for starting to create an awareness of health and safety responsibilities without your people switching-off:


  1. Start at the top

Make health and safety a strategic and operational priority of your organisation, with management regularly communicating and emphasising its importance to all staff. Do this in as many ways as possible; try adding a safety line item to your regular and existing weekly all staff meetings, or simply “just ask” your staff for input about the hazards they are aware of, or even sharing a blog every once in a while with the workplace. It doesn’t have to be hard or time consuming – but management leading the way is important!


  1. Tailor it

Health and safety legislation and standards are wide-reaching and applicable to a broad range of sectors and organisations. So, your approach to health and safety should be relevant to the industry and context of your organisation. To make it more accessible to your people start with WorkSafe’s Injury Hotspots website – and talk about exactly what is relevant in your industry and not what isn’t! Jump on that site today and print a poster or two to stick up in tea rooms and lunch areas.


Free safety promotion poster set for your workplace. Download now.


  1. Simplify it for your staff

Do away with unnecessary complexity and jargon by speaking to your people about safety in simple terms. They don’t need to see the regulations or the complex paperwork – hell, even you don’t – but reminding your staff that health and safety is simply about making sure we all go home safe at night can really bring it home for people. So if you were to ask your people to simply let you know when something doesn’t safe or feel right, that’s already an amazing step forward and brings everyone into the picture. Work with them on the solution. Keep the updated on your progress. Let them know it’s not that hard.



Don’t forget, Safety Champion can help. Our software is scalable and flexible, and can be customised to suit the health and safety needs of your business. After all, it was designed especially for the small and medium sized business market, and as such comes pre-loaded with configurable documents and workflows that you and your people need to stay safe and stay on track with safety. We have made it easy to configure our templates and workflows to align with business; not to mention, we will adopt your colours and your logos – so your workers will feel at home. Why not arrange a demo today?


[1] Implicit: Quietly, some may say sneakily trying to build safety into already existing business activities. Doing “safety” without workers/people knowing that they are “doing safety”. The process is important, not people thinking/knowing that the process is safety.

[2] Explicit: Yelling from the rooftops, placing an over-emphasis – making it the most important thing in the room, when the behaviours of managers and leaders suggests it’s not.

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