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Risk in Context

5 Key Steps to Develop Safety Leaders, Reduce Injuries, and Protect Operations

Posted by Larry Pearlman April 08, 2016

Safety training is essential to not only ensuring the safety of employees, but also the company’s financial strength and standing. But how can companies be sure that employees follow the safety standards on which several thousands of dollars have been spent?

Safety leaders are your company’s first line of defense against injuries and incidents that can dramatically affect workers’ compensation costs. They also need to ensure safety training is implemented.

So how do you develop effective safety leaders?

Five Basic Safety Leadership Competencies: CARES

Marsh has identified a set of basic competencies that safety leaders should exhibit and a set of new competencies that reflect the evolution of the workplace.

The five basic competencies require:

1. Communicating Expectations
The lowest level of performance a leader allows is the highest level of performance that can be expected. Safety leaders can establish high safety expectations from the broader workforce by:

  • Emphasizing the importance of safety through consistent messaging.
  • Communicating that zero harm is achievable.
  • Developing proactive safety plans.
  • Establishing clear safety accountability.
  • Understanding and applying safety management systems.
  • Using risk assessment and management tools to guide business decisions.
  • Reviewing safety performance using leading and lagging indicators to identify patterns, trends, and areas of weakness.

2. Assessing Risks and Hazards

Unidentified risks and hazards cannot be effectively managed and mitigated. Safety leaders can resolve this by:

  • Identifying potential hazards, changing conditions, and incidence-prevention procedures. Investigating environmental health and safety (EHS) incidents in-depth to identify the root cause and to prevent a recurrence.
  • Prioritizing effective implementation and continuous improvement, including updating safety practices.

3. Reinforcing Safe Behaviors

Safety leadership cannot rely merely on regularly scheduled safety training. Successful safety programs reinforce learned safe behaviors and proper compliance daily. To prevent old patterns from recurring, safety leaders need to enforce EHS standards and address non-compliance breaches, providing ongoing positive feedback and leading by example.

4. Engaging Employees

Perhaps the most important aspect of a safety leader’s job is maintaining a strong and productive relationship with fellow employees. Safety leaders can achieve this by:

  • Understanding that safety depends on everyone’s constant efforts.
  • Ensuring that safety performance is reviewed regularly and results are visible.
  • Encouraging open reporting of all safety successes, concerns, and incidents.
  • Protecting employees from retaliation for raising safety concerns.

5. Being Skilled and Competent

Safety leaders should be evaluated against a defined set of leadership competencies. Leaders must clearly understand what good performance looks like. Developmental plans need to be established to ensure leaders achieve competence in those dimensions.

Safety Leadership: Protecting Employees, Financials, and Operations

The link between effective safety leadership and high performing safety cultures has been illustrated frequently over the past several decades. According to a survey conducted by Liberty Mutual Insurance, more than 60% of CFOs reported that “each $1 invested in injury prevention returns $2 or more.”  Further, more than 40% of CFOs cited productivity as the top benefit of an effective workplace safety program.

The benefits of safety leadership have been apparent for years, but what hasn’t been so clear is how to develop safety leaders. By starting with the five competencies embedded in CARES, you can establish a foundation for developing high-performing safety leaders. The payoff may not only be reduced injuries, but also cost savings.

Related to:  Marsh Risk Consulting

Larry Pearlman

Larry Pearlman is a senior vice president with the Workforce Strategies Practice of Marsh Risk Consulting, located in the Chicago office.