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Safety Leadership: Required at the Frontline

My first day as a frontline leader was interesting, to say the least.  My crew was assigned to a task that required extreme focus to make sure that we all got to go home to our families at the end of the day.  By the end of the day, I was exhausted. Not because I didn’t know how to do the work.  The problem was I was thrown to the wolves, so to speak. I was worn out because I suddenly understood how much responsibility I had to lead my crew to do the work safety.

Frontline leaders are most often promoted to their positions because of their technical knowledge, particularly in the craft areas.  Even though this happened to me years ago I still see it happening in all industries.  Not much has changed.  Supervising a work group that has been assigned to you can make you feel less confident and make you wish you could “go back to the tools.”

The answer to this dilemma is to first understand the competencies required of a supervisor charged with leading people to do high risk work – work where they can be injured, maimed, or killed. The second part of addressing the dilemma is to provide training that goes beyond how to fill out timesheets properly or how to use the procurement system.  (Yes, I see first-hand that so-called supervisor training in many companies simply involves teaching newbies how to use the myriad of computer systems to get the mountain of paperwork done.  It’s a travesty!)  Training supervisors or front-line leaders who lead workers in high risk work must involve helping them understand the seriousness of their role and give them tools that will help them successfully transition from the craft to leadership.

Before that, I was just one of the guys getting the work done; and suddenly I had responsibility for other’s lives while meeting the company’s expectations for production.  Once I became a front-line leader, I found there were five areas where I needed development.  I’ve confirmed these five areas over many years working as a consultant to high-risk industry.

These five areas to develop in supervisors and front-line leaders are:

  • Attitude
  • Communications
  • Responsibility
  • Accountability, and
  • Trust

These five areas are critical for any leader’s success in any work environment and particularly for front-line leaders in a high-risk environment.  Attitude is a response to the organization’s leaders.  Leaders who are able to communicate the values and goals in a way that increases understanding of what is required and expected tend to see an increase in responsibility.  When personnel accept personal responsibility for creating a safe workplace, their willingness to be held accountable increases.  The goals is for a team of people to emerge who trust each other, leadership, and the organization.  Creating and leading this type of successful organization doesn’t come naturally, nor does it come easily. It requires continual learning that leads to understanding of how to create workplace where it’s difficult to get hurt.

If you are a front-line leader or supervisor – or aspire to be one, take steps to ensure that you are equipping yourself for the totality of your role.  Your company may offer training and education in new skills that you need as a supervisor, but are you getting what you need to be a safety supervisor?  Take time to assess your skills, what your company offers, and identify the gap.  Find ways to learn all you can about leading people to work safely so you can ensure that on your worksite nobody gets hurt.


When I left the craft of being a high-voltage journeyman and working foreman to start my consulting business, my first goal was to create a seminar that I wished I had been able to attend.  The result is one that I have delivered hundreds of times to frontline leaders and supervisors: Safety and the Supervisor Seminar

If you are interested in experiencing my Safety and the Supervisor Seminar, you can attend in Phoenix AZ on April 22, 2016.  Also, consider attending the Hazard Recognition and Control Workshop the day before on April 21, 2016.  For more information about this particular date, or having me work with your leadership team, email me at:

You can learn more about the Safety and the Supervisor Seminar at:

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