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Keep Safety Simple: Rules, Regulations, and Relationships

Truth is ever to be found in simplicity, and not in the multiplicity and confusion of things.   —Issac Newton

It is difficult to keep safety simple when we are constantly looking over the horizon for the “next thing” that will improve safety.  Someone is fatally injured and suddenly everyone becomes a passionate safety professional.  In many cases some of the most devout safety professionals in the world decided on a career in safety because of the death of a co-worker, friend, or family member. The reaction sometimes can be positive to a safety culture but may have unintended consequences.

When a big push comes from the top to review rules and regulations that are widely known, it makes the rank and file sigh and say, “Not again.”  A Safety Stand Downis scheduled to ‘get attention’ so rules and regulations are followed as if everyone intentionally breaks rules.  Don’t get me wrong I make my living speaking at many of these events and believe they are important.  Truth is that in 17 years of work in industry and another 27 years of consulting (Yes, 44 years! Wow time flies when you’re having fun) I can safely say I have yet to meet anyone who intentionally broke a rule or regulation with the plan of getting hurt.  What I have found is another reason that workers do follow rules and regulations… Leadership

Leaders who have a relationship with their workforce are usually found with a crew who follow the rules and regulations.  They are the crew who sits on the front row of the safety meeting and don’t hesitate to volunteer to participate in the safety committee driving continuous improvement.  Their leader has set the standard for safety and an expectation for not getting hurt by having a positive attitude towards safety, welcoming observations, knowing and follows procedures, and consistently wearing the proper personal protective equipment (PPE).  This leader is not prideful and boastful of their own ability but the ability of their crew.

What I have learned and share in my writings, speaking, consulting, and training is a straight- forward approach to safety.  Leaders must create a safety culture in their crew by setting expectations.  That expectation is not; “Don’t get killed”, or Don’t get hurt” – it is an expectation to keep safety simple through good attitudes, following procedures, welcoming observations, and wearing proper PPE the things the leader exemplifies in his or her own behavior.. This is the mark of a leader who demonstrates that he or she cares more about the welfare of each crew member than the job itself.

This leader is worth their pay because they develop other leaders.  In fact, when a visitor shows up on the job any crew member can conduct the briefing and is not shy about taking on the position of leader.  Leaders who develop leaders help their companies grow and prosper because their best asset is the people who are willing to be held accountable, take responsibility, and develop trusting relationships.  In this way through leadership the crew creates a workplace where it is difficult for anyone to get hurt.

Hope this is a helpful message and I look forward to joining you in the efforts to improve your organization’s safety culture.

Be Safe!

Carl Potter, CSP

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One Response to Keep Safety Simple: Rules, Regulations, and Relationships

  • Preston Derden says:

    Hello Carl:
    I really like this approach of keeping safety simple, leaders leading by example and caring more about the welfare of their employees vs. the job that is to be completed. It also speaks to the culture when the employees congregate at the front, rather than the back of the room during safety meetings. Finally leaders develop leaders recognizing the asset are their employees that make the company what it is. Great message!

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