At Safety 2017, the annual professional development conference of the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), Judy L. Agnew, PhD, senior vice president of safety solutions with Aubrey Daniels International, spoke to a large room filled with safety professionals in a session titled “Setting Frontline Supervisors Up for Success in Safety.”
Referring to frontline supervisors as “the linchpins of safety,” Agnew emphasized that creating a safe workplace requires active participation at all levels of the organization. Frontline supervisors, she said, play a key role in holding together the many moving parts of a safety program, from training and hazard identification to equipment inspections and recordkeeping.
In particular, Agnew contended that frontline supervisors play a key role in engaging the workforce in safety. An engaged workforce contributes to a safer workplace by participating in safety discussions, planning for and anticipating hazards, actively working to keep peers safe, reporting hazards and near misses, and challenging decisions when appropriate.
Agnew advised attendees to consider how supervisors view their role relating to safety. Do they see themselves as safety cops or safety coaches? The two mindsets produce very different engagement results. While safety cops look for problems and focus on enforcement, coaches deliver constructive feedback with a focus on helping people improve. The coaching mindset leads to more positive interactions with frontline employees, which in turn facilitates engagement.
Agnew offered the following seven safety leadership tips for supervisors:
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