Safety leadership is about both proactively and reactively improving upon safety within the workplace, to the benefit of peers and the business as a whole. Safety leaders have to be advocates for good safety practices, must be responsive to injuries and incidents, and must put the organization’s overall safety at the highest priority. 

What is a Safety Leader?

A safety leader isn’t the same as safety management. Safety leaders are individuals who take it upon themselves to recognize and address internal issues of safety, whether it is their job description to manage safety or not. In this way, a safety leader acts as an advocate for other employees, for management, and for the organization’s own internal safety protocols. A safety leader can be a safety manager, but having this administrative hierarchy is not critical to the role. A safety leader leads by example and is a good influence on both those above and below them.

What is the Importance of Safety Leadership in the Workplace?

Safety leadership echoes an organization’s company culture, in that a proper safety leader will create a culture of safety wherever they go. It’s easy for employees to forget about or dismiss safety protocols and processes if they aren’t taken seriously. By taking an organization’s safety seriously, safety leaders thereby encourage others to take it seriously, too.

Safety leaders are able to support the organization’s safety even when there may not be clearly defined protocols and processes for a specific incident, much like company culture guides employees towards actions that best fit the company’s mission and ethos. With the right safety leaders, the company’s safety initiatives will start to come from within the company, rather than feeling like external initiatives driven by third parties.

The Characteristics of a Good Safety Leader

Who should be a safety leader? Safety leaders are necessarily people who are proactive about situations, who are communicative, and who are looked to with respect by other employees. Safety leaders are frequently safety managers, even though the role of leadership and management should not be confused. Safety leaders need to be people who are able to be detail-oriented, speak with confidence, and self-motivate.

Safety Leadership vs. Safety Management

As mentioned, safety leadership and safety management differs. Despite this, the OSHA 5-STARS model does outline a model of safety leadership with significant overlap between safety leadership and safety management. The 5-STARS model consists of:

  1. Supervision. Leaders will make sure other employees are safe when performing tasks.
  2. Training. Leaders will conduct safety and training education.
  3. Accountability. Leaders will ensure that employees are held accountable to safety rules.
  4. Resources. Leaders will provide resources so employees can perform their tasks safely.
  5. Support. Leaders will create an environment supportive of safety, such as by limiting workloads.

As you can see, these are things that a safety manager would necessarily be doing, and therefore there is some confusion between leadership and management. But a safety leader can be any employee, which means that leaders might not necessarily, for instance, provide protective gear to other employees — but they would advocate for protective gear, and insist that the appropriate gear be provided and used.

The Benefits of Effective Safety Leadership

Effective safety leadership functions even when safety managers aren’t available. Often, issues with safety occur because protocols become lax. Employees forget to wear gear when they are stressed or under high workloads. Unpredictable things occur. Safety leadership means that there are more active advocates available to ensure that employees are still following safety protocols during day-to-day operations, not just after safety training, or during inspections.

The more eyes there are on a problem, the more likely the problem is to be solved. The issue of safety is everyone’s concern, not just safety management’s. By making sure that there are safety leaders throughout your organization, you also make sure that safety is more likely to pervade throughout your organization.

From building better processes to using the right technology, there are ways that you can keep your employees and your business from risk. Learn how Anvl can help you engage the voice of your workers, establish safety leaders, and get work done – on time, on budget, and safely.