Property Casualty

Leading with Safety

Kevan Bakewell
Kevan Bakewell
Vice President, Enterprise Loss Control, PC

I think we can all agree safety is important in the workplace. After all, who wants to work in an unsafe environment?! Certainly not me.

As we work with and get to know our clients, we usually find out that each company is in a different place on their journey to better manage their risk and achieve desired safety results. Each company has different cultures, approaches, and results for how they will achieve their desired goals. And that’s OK.

When the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was first established in 1971, companies typically reacted slowly and made compliance with the standards their safety goal. As safety evolved, other approaches were developed and tried, such as behavioral safety, organizational factors, worker behavioral change, management systems, and cultural improvement.

Today, there are numerous ways to achieve safety goals. Common approaches are to meet or exceed OSHA or Department of Transportation (DOT) standards, cultural focus, implementing management systems (such as OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Program [VPP]), behavioral safety, engineering improvements, and leadership improvement.

Here’s where it gets interesting. What research has shown is that by a wide margin, improving safety leadership or leadership skills in the workplace is the most effective approach to achieving world-class safety results.

Where am I going with this? Well, leadership, commitment, and practice have been shown to be the biggest predictors to safety success. Yes — biggest. Safety leadership effectively communicates the vision, values, and goals employees need to execute the company’s safety strategy. It leads to higher employee involvement, culture change, and reduced risk. As an added bonus, research shows that improvements in safety results also lead to improved outcomes generally in other areas such as quality, production, customer service, and morale. Seems like a slam dunk, right?

Safety is an ideal starting point for performance improvement. Safety has a standard of measurement with OSHA recordable rates and, compared to other performance areas, it has an immediate value for all levels throughout the organization. Safety is an effective focus of leadership, not only because it correlates to strong business performance, but also because it provides a natural starting place to engage the workplace in meeting organization goals.

So, where are you in your efforts to elevate safety and reduce risk? If you’re not sure or need some advice, we’re here to talk with you. Like I said, we travel a lot and have seen just about everything. We are more than willing to talk with you about this!

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