Needless to say, worksite safety is a high priority for all organizations. However, your organizational structure may have unwittingly placed all of the responsibility on your safety department’s shoulders. No one wants to talk about it, but management should bear the responsibility for safety.

Here are two organizational issues that contribute to the problem … and what you can do about it.

You Have Not Clearly Defined the Roles and Responsibilities for Safety

Stephen Covey, the renowned organizational consultant, often did an exercise in his trainings. He would ask all the training participants in the room to close their eyes and point north. Then, he would ask everyone to open their eyes and look around the room. Not surprisingly, the participants were all pointing in different directions.

Your team members cannot all get to the same place if you have not defined “north.”

Who is really responsible for safety performance? Is it the safety department? Is it the worker? The field manager? Is it the engineer’s responsibility? Or, should the responsibility fall back on senior management?

Management is responsible for establishing the corporate values and the systems and structures to support them. They develop and implement a strategy for the day, and for the week, and for the month. The foreman works with the workers to develop a plan for the day that integrates safety measures.

The safety department acts in an advisory role, taking responsibility for evaluating the overall safety effort by identifying how well safety measures are being implemented and followed.

Everyone has a role, but ultimately, safety is a management responsibility. Management is developing the strategy and the plan for execution. However, when that role is not clearly defined, that responsibility can fall on the safety department, causing inefficiency, confusion, and a breakdown in trust.

What You Can Do About It

How do you bring operations management, field management, the safety department, and your workers into alignment so everybody clearly understands their roles and responsibilities around safety?

Click here [link] to download your free roles and responsibility assessment tool. Or, contact us at [link] and we will send you a link to a free online assessment.

The Safety Department is Given the Responsibility Without the Authority to Make the Necessary Changes

When considering the work environment, there are three sources of influence on behavior.

1. Individual
The individual experience influences behavior. Every person on a project has a collection of experiences that form their beliefs and influence their behavior.

2. Team
The team dynamics influence behavior. In the team environment, people want to connect; everyone wants to belong and to feel like they matter.

3. Organization
The organization’s culture – their beliefs, policies, and procedures – influence behavior. The way the organization is structured impacts how people connect to the company, to the project, and to each other. How does the organization make employees feel like they belong, that their uniqueness matters, and that they are safe to speak up?

The individual, team, and organization all have influences on behavior that impact safety and performance, but the safety team does not have the capability to influence the experience of workers in any of these areas.

  • The safety department does not have influence over workers at the individual level. They do not hire or train workers. They do not assign specific work, motivate workers, give feedback on performance, or provide individual coaching.
  • Safety does not have influence over team dynamics. They cannot change what that group is experiencing under the leadership of their foreman, and they do not have insight into the team’s performance to know who the stars are and who the slackers are that pull down the overall morale.
  • The safety department does not control the organizational structure – from values to principles to processes and procedures.

When management sets the safety team up to make changes in areas they do not influence, they are setting the organization up for failure. How can the safety team be responsible for the performance of the workers when they do not hire, train, motivate, or interact with the workers enough to understand their beliefs? Safety cannot control what the worker experiences in the group, or the structure in which the worker operates. So why should the safety team be held accountable?

Each individual worker gives trust to coworkers and to management based his or her individual experiences and biases. Certain individuals and managers may not be trustworthy to one employee, but they work for another.

The safety department, or anyone else, can’t mandate trust. It is given freely from one individual to another based on that individual’s trustworthiness. They can’t mandate workers to speak up if they are fearful of consequences from their team or management. Safety can’t make anyone come up with an innovative solution to reduce risk of situations that just pop up.

Safety is more rule-based and less human-performance-based. They do not have the ability to discover and change the culture or environmental triggers that create confusion, frustration, stress, apathy, or malicious obedience. Yet all of these emotions drive the behaviors that can lead to lack of safety, productivity, or quality. These are all elements that management is responsible for.

What You Can Do About It

Management needs to understand their influence on the individual, team, and organizational level. When accountability for safety is not in the hands of the direct supervisor, that leader becomes unempowered to influence necessary change. But, when management “owns” safety they are in the position to provide the leadership necessary for their worksite.

  • Build alignment between safety and management. You can use this tool [insert link] as a starting point.
  • Safety can assist management with rebalancing a rule-based approach with a human performance philosophy and tools.
  • Expand audits to include team planning and leadership effectiveness.
  • Conduct regular employee surveys to get the pulse of the worker regarding management’s effectiveness in leading and engaging and providing a safe environment.
  • eTracker enables you to enhance worker engagement on the individual, team, and organizational level and to plan, engage, and reward them. It provides a clear line of sight into performance and allows you the ability to measure leadership efficiency.

Let us show you how our digital transformation technology can capture 100% employee input, provide overnight feedback, and transform the information into worker-driven intelligence and value creation that you can leverage.

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