It’s undeniable that management has a significant impact on safety programs. Management provides more than the core programs that make up safety processes—they also provide vision and leadership. Managers need to lead by example, provide the required resources, and communicate that they are committed to the organization’s safety goals. When management is able to work with employees, the success of safety programs can be greatly improved.
Here’s what you need to know.
How Can Management Support Safety Programs?
While employees have a vested interest in safety, they need the support of their management to make safety a reality. Employees are unable to advocate for themselves if their managers are not advocating for them as well. Managers have the responsibility to:
- Communicate their commitment. Creating a culture of safety doesn’t happen without action. Employees must know that managers are prioritizing safety, and that their managers expect them to prioritize safety, as well. When productivity or profitability becomes more visible than safety, employees are more inclined to neglect it.
- Define safety program goals and expectations. It is always easier for employees to meet manageable metrics. Employees need to know what is expected of them, and whether safety is improving or declining. Setting goals and expectations is the first step towards improvement.
- Allocate resources. Employees are limited by their environment and resources, but it’s not enough to just provide resources towards safety—these also need to be allocated in the most effective way. Tools such as safety software can help organizations identify the areas in which resources are most needed.
- Reward performance. Part of safety leadership lies in highlighting safety improvements and rewarding employees and departments with solid safety records. By rewarding performance, managers can encourage other employees, while empowering the ones who are prioritizing safety.
Of course, it isn’t all on the manager’s back. Employees must also be engaged with safety, as well. But proper safety leadership makes it far easier for employees to follow the processes that they need to.
How Can Management Work Together With Employees?
Management commitment and employee involvement must be seen as complementary. Too often, the relationship between management and employee can become antagonistic. This is usually a measure of having requirements for employees that they do not feel they can meet.
As an example, management might require employees use specific safety processes, but not give employees enough time to follow these processes. Management will become frustrated that employees aren’t following processes, while employees will feel as though they are being asked to complete an impossible task.
Consequently, it’s important for both managers and employees to share the responsibility of safety. Managers need to seek to understand employee needs, while employees must be able to do their best with what they have.
What is the Difference Between Safety Leadership and Safety Management?
Safety leadership does not necessarily need to be conducted by safety managers. While there is some overlap, employees can also be safety leaders. Ideally, there should be safety leaders among both management and employees. These leaders serve as advocates for appropriate safety practices.
When manager and employee safety leaders are able to work together and coordinate, they can be far more effective—but both parties must be able to communicate their needs to each other. Having structured processes, and technology, through which they can do so can help.
How Can Management Improve Engagement?
When it comes to safety, sustained engagement is key. Safety processes may be followed after annual safety meetings, but may start to fall by the wayside once operations as usual resume once again. Management needs to be able to find ways to support safety programs throughout the organization’s operations, not just when safety audits are occurring, or when refresher courses have been taken.
Management can improve engagement by:
- Empowering safety leaders to take action. The more safety leaders an organization has, the more likely they are to be able to improve upon the overall safety of the organization.
- Creating a culture of safety. By continually prioritizing safety, and by implementing the right processes, management can create a culture of safety that will operate even when management is not directly involved.
- Implementing continual training processes. Training should not be done only when employees are hired or on an annual basis, but should be refreshed throughout to keep safety processes at the forefront of the organization’s operations.
- Utilizing safety management software. Safety management software automates many of the tasks related to safety management, consequently reducing the barriers that might get in the way.
- Providing the right equipment. If the right equipment is both provided and properly maintained, employees will be far more likely to utilize it as they should.
Management has a significant role in supporting safety programs. But they can’t do it alone. Instead, management needs to seek to engage employees in a sustainable and long-lasting relationship. By connecting with employees, fostering safety leadership, and providing the right equipment, processes, and safety software, management can create a complete culture of safety.