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Optimize Executive Safety Engagement With CARE

Posted by Larry Pearlman October 10, 2017

Nearly 82% of respondents to a recent EHS Today National Safety Survey say top management within their organizations provides both active and visible support for occupational safety and health. While it is true that most C-suite executives are paying more attention to these risks, they don’t necessarily understand their role.

To stay engaged, executives should lean on the four levels of the CARE approach to safety leadership.


Executives should communicate a compelling view of safety expectations internally and externally, including “safety above all” and the belief that all incidents are preventable.  In addition, they should:

  • Accept and demand personal responsibility for safety.
  • Set clear safety roles, responsibilities, and measureable expectations for organizations and teams.
  • Build a sense of urgency into the safety agenda.
  • Use data to make the case for safety and drive improvements.


Executives should identify health and safety risks across a wide range of planning and operational activities, seek to understand and quantify these risks, and take actions to minimize them. They should also:

  • Review safety incidents, act to prevent their recurrence, challenge root causes, and ensure appropriate corrective actions and follow-up.
  • Challenge the trade-off assumptions between safety and operations, making investments, and going the extra mile to reduce risks.
  • Manage safety metrics the same way they manage other business metrics. This means regularly reviewing safety performance with similar cadence and structure as other business metrics.  Leaders must also share safety plans and overall results.


Executives should demonstrate zero tolerance for unsafe behavior while recognizing positive safety results, activities, and behaviors. Specifically, they should:

  • Lead safety by example and align their words with their actions.
  • Proactively identify and intervene when confronted with unsafe behaviors or conditions.
  • Provide ongoing positive feedback.
  • Share stories that illustrate their commitment to safety and relate their experiences to the rest of the organization.


Executives should monitor and review safety performance and share results across the organization in order to maintain trust and accessibility with their colleagues. This includes:

  • Promoting involvement in safety and a supportive just culture.
  • Encouraging reporting of all safety successes, concerns, and incidents.
  • Listening to others and acting on suggestions and concerns.
  • Using open-ended questions to explore safety issues.
  • Being open to bad news and acting upon it.


The number of executives who see themselves as effective safety leaders is growing. Now is the time to further their safety interests and develop their leadership capabilities through the CARE model.

Larry Pearlman

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