I talk a lot about having strong management commitment to work health and safety at the very top of the organisation.  Having top level management committed to health and safety makes it a priority for everyone in the organisation.  It ensures the organisation has a strategic vision, objectives are set and adequate resources are available.

But whether or not an organisation has highly committed top management, the direct supervisor can have a dramatic impact on the people they lead.  When a direct supervisor is in tune with the hazards and risks their team face, and involve the team in managing them, safety performance improves dramatically.  This is backed up by loads of research.

Here are 10 things health and safety professionals can do to help improve safety leadership:

  1. Provide supervisors safety leadership training and ongoing coaching.
  2. Review health and safety procedures with supervisors. Let them help shape the organisation’s health and safety management system.  It’s a health and safety management system; not a safety officer system.
  3. Keep safety procedures simple, and pitched at supervisors. They don’t need volumes of jargon.
  4. Have supervisors consult with their team on health and safety issues. This is their job.  They have established relationships with their staff.  Their staff are their responsibility.
  5. Have all safety messages delivered by direct supervisors.
  6. When employees come to you with questions, refer them back to their supervisor, then support the supervisor in preparing a response. Ask employees things like, “have you raised this with your supervisor?”, “What did your supervisor say?”
  7. Set them up to succeed. Remind them when things are due.
  8. Let them know when opportunities to be a great supervisor present themselves.
  9. Don’t do their work for them.
  10. Don’t do their work for them. This is worth repeating.  Help them do their work, but it is their work.