Do your supervisors play a key role in the foundation and success of your company’s safety program? Too often, companies rely strictly on their safety staff to ensure safety protocol is maintained. Unfortunately, this approach often leads to gaps in an effective safety process. It also can lead to a poor safety culture.
To ensure a proactive safety program, employers must evaluate their supervisors’ engagement and participation in safety protocols on a regular basis. In other words, employees should perceive that safety is important to their immediate supervisor.
For supervisors looking to become actively engaged with their company’s safety program, here are some actions they should consider.
1. Receive ongoing incident prevention training at regular intervals
Effective supervisors rely on their employer to invest in their safety training. All supervisors should be aware of the specific regulations and risks within their industry and understand how to properly address them. To accomplish this, supervisors should receive ongoing incident prevention training specific to their industry and apply their knowledge to their operations. They should be able to demonstrate their understanding of compliance standards as well as learn techniques on how to support their employer’s safe work culture. In addition, all supervisors must understand the effects of incidents on the company’s overall profitability.
2. Complete formal safety inspections of their work area
If used correctly, a formal pre-operation supervisor safety checklist will prove to be an excellent tool to assist with identifying and addressing safety hazards before they pose a problem. Supervisors should ensure all unsafe conditions detected – and corresponding corrective action – are reported to the company. Revealed safety hazards and abatement measures can also serve as good safety training topics for future safety meetings. Formal safety inspections will ensure all required processes, including the inspection of equipment and the securement of required environmental permits, are verified prior to the commencement of work.
3. Conduct effective safety meetings
Supervisors often serve as the employer’s first line of defense against workplace incidents, especially in high-risk industries. Having supervisors conduct effective pre-job safety meetings can assist with mitigating those risks. It is imperative that the personnel they supervise are provided with the most current information on exposures related to their upcoming work. Good communication is a vital component to safety expectations. Supervisors should be trained in how to deliver effective safety briefings so that everyone understands their role in incident prevention. Another excellent communication tool for supervisors is a Job Hazard Analysis (JHA) which should be completed and reviewed prior to each job. JHAs serve as an excellent tool for identifying specific hazards related to each task, and addressing the best safety practices to address those risks.
4. Complete or participate in incident investigations
Supervisors are frequently near, and may even witness, the various incidents that occur on a worksite. Having their input and knowledge about the events leading up to the incident can greatly assist with identifying the root cause and preventive action to avoid similar incidents in the future. Supervisors involved in incident investigations also demonstrate their involvement and commitment in the company’s safety process which enhances the safety culture.
5. Participate in safety improvement meetings
Effective safety programs involve supervisors’ participation and involvement on how to improve the safety process. Having them participate in safety committee meetings is an excellent means to get their input and allows them to have ownership in the company’s safety program. This strategy also significantly enhances the organization’s safety culture.
6. Become involved with training new employees
Safety cultures are dictated by the safety process. A proactive safety process involves supervisors providing hands-on training for new employees and coaching them how to perform their job safely and efficiently. Having supervisors provide new employee training demonstrates the importance of safety to new hires and instills positive habits from the start.
7. Give positive recognition for employees performing their job safely
Instilling a positive safety culture involves supervisors not only addressing and correcting unsafe behavior, but also acknowledging safe behavior. Employees appreciate a pat on the back for doing their jobs safely, and these acknowledgments bring a positive vibe to the overall safety culture. Too often employees are reprimanded and not commended for their actions.
Active supervisor participation in the company’s safety program is a vital component that can make or break a safety program. For a company’s safety culture to thrive, its supervisors must lead by their actions – they do truly speak louder than words.
John Bloess joined The American Equity Underwriters in 2002 and serves as a Senior Loss Control Manager. From 2007 – 2012, John worked for the Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) as their Corporate Safety and Loss Control Manager where he served as Chairman of several local and regional port-related safety committees. He returned to AEU in 2012. Earlier in his career, John developed a strong background in marine cargo handling during his tenure with a large stevedoring company, where he served as the Southeast Regional Director of Loss Control.
John earned his Bachelor of Science degree from Texas State University and is an authorized OSHA Outreach Trainer for the Maritime Industry. He currently serves as Technical Committee Member of the National Maritime Safety Association (NMSA) and is also an active member of the Savannah Propeller Club.