25th Feb, 2020 Read time 2 minutes

The importance of strong leadership in HSE

The way you lead your team on health and safety can determine how safe your site is to work on, and the number of injuries or deaths that may occur on site.

As a leader it’s key to remember a few points relating to the health and safety of your business:

  • Your attitudes and beliefs about health and safety drive your behaviour and that of those around you
  • Your behaviour at work/on site sends a powerful message to your workers about how seriously they should take health and safety and the relating procedures
  • The real causes of accidents can often be traced back to managers’ decisions

Too often, the terms ‘leadership’ and ‘management’ are used interchangeably. The problem here is that people fail to understand that there are critical differences between these roles and the vital functions of each in enhancing safety performance.

Leaders set the example and standards for all employees and themselves

As a leader, you are setting both the standard and the example for every single worker within your workplace regardless of their skill level and payment band. The influence you have both on other managers, and on lower level staff can make or break the safety standards within your business.

A transformational leader can have a positive impact on attitudes, behaviours and organisational performance across the board. As a leader you should inspire, transform, energise, and motivate workers to view their work from different perspectives and to work as a team to be at the top of their game.

OSHA developed the 5-STARS model of safety leadership:

  • Supervision: overseeing work activities to make sure employees are safe
  • Training: conducting safety education and training
  • Accountability: insisting that everyone complies with company safety policies and rules
  • Resources: providing physical resources – tools, equipment, materials – so employees can work safely
  • Support: creating a supportive psychosocial work environment – schedules, workloads, recognition – so employees do not work under undue stress

Business success depends on good health and safety leadership

It is key to remember here that safety leaders do not influence others through power, status, or authority and that leadership is not about the attributes of an individual, but rather their behaviours and their passion for safety leadership. Just because an employee is not the most charismatic member of the team, this does does not mean that he or she cannot be a safety leader.

Good leadership in health and safety is essential for the positive performance of a business, with ineffective safety leadership hindering the ability of many companies to achieve their business goals.

The evidence from safety research and practical experience shows that effective safety leadership adds to the bottom line in many ways. Not only will companies see a reduction in workplace incidents, but they will also experience an improved safety culture, cost savings, and an improvement in quality and productivity.

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