One of my favorite parts of my job at worldsteel is to visit our member companies to spend time in their plants. During these visits I always learn something from their good practices and am often able to offer advice and support as they look to take the next step on their safety journey.
During these discussions many topics come up, we frequently find ourselves discussing best practices around issues such as working at height, isolation, including Lock Out/Tag Out/Try out and Process Safety.
However, the topic that gets the most attention during these discussions, and I feel that increasingly makes the difference between best performers and the rest, is safety leadership and safety culture.
Anyone in the hierarchy can be safety leader, from a CEO to shop floor operator, but senior leaders have a unique opportunity to be a positive influence on a whole organisation.
So, what is safety leadership?
A safety leader is seen and believed by others when they discuss safety, they accept and always personally comply with safety rules, they are fair, and reward good behavior but always take the time to engage immediately and constructively with people who do not follow safety procedures. They are quick to publicly celebrate safe behaviour and are trusted when they speak.
- A safety manager measures, organises, reports, a safety leader convinces people
- A safety manager complies with the safety rules, a safety leader believes in the safety rules
- A safety leader leads by example, is seen on the floor, and is believed
- A safety leader communicates on the consequences of the safety deviations rather than on the safety rules
- A safety leader keeps a critical eye on the safety rules, looking for those which are inappropriate and need to be updated
- A safety leader investigates with the why/why method beyond comfortable questions and ensures organisational factors are considered
- Rather than asking “Why didn’t the worker follow the rules?”, safety leaders ask themselves “Why did I fail to convince the worker to adopt safe working behaviour?”
- The best safety leader asks, ‘What went right?’ as often as ‘What went wrong?’
A few weeks ago, safety leaders from across worldsteel’s membership met, and we spent a fair amount of time discussing safety culture and safety leadership.
When addressing how visible felt leadership is maintained over the long term, we concluded that the most critical issues were:
Leadership means leaders doing what they say they will do
Communication must be effective, sustainable and innovative to ensure it remains relevant as safety maturity and safety culture evolve
Ensuring any issues identified are resolved swiftly and that this is communicated
Reward mechanisms should support and sustain felt leadership through all levels of the organisation.
In order to recognise the importance of leadership and culture in shaping a company’s operating environment, this year worldsteel added a new category to our Safety Excellence Recognition Programme – “Culture and Leadership”.
I am delighted to be able to congratulate Qatar Steel on being the first of what I expect to be many members whose leading practices will prove an inspiration to others.