We are human, and humans make mistakes.
Unfortunately, when these mistakes are made in high-risk and high-pressure environments – such as the workplace – the results can be catastrophic for all those involved. Although it is impossible to completely eliminate these mistakes, it is becoming increasingly clear that organisations have the capacity and responsibility to provide a culture of safety excellence to minimise this damage.
Occupational health statistics from the past decade indicate that the world is performing poorly in workplace safety. So much so, that even the better performing countries are experiencing thousands of work-related fatalities annually. In addition to the physical and psychological impact of these incidents, there is also substantial economic ramifications, with the damage of workplace injuries in Australia costing the country $60 Billion each year.
This issue has been identified within workplace safety circles in Australia, and as a consequence, there is now a heightened importance for safety leadership.
According to the International Journal of Technology and Engineering Education, safety leadership is “the process of interaction between leaders and followers, through which leaders could exert their influence on followers to achieve organisational safety goals under the circumstances of organisational and individual factors.”
These leaders drive a culture of safety through high-level exchanges with employees, where they provide safety-specific knowledge, skills and experiences. It is through these interactions that benchmarks for safety behaviours are clearly understood and adhered to.
Research in safety leadership indicates that a transformational leadership style, as opposed to transactional leadership, is the most effective way to achieve positive employee associations for workplace safety behaviours.
Transformational leadership encompasses four leader dimensions:
- Idealised influence – leaders influencing behaviours through demonstrating high levels of moral conduct.
- Inspirational motivation – leaders conveying an optimistic, value-based vision for the organisation and encouraging its followers to commit to it.
- Intellectual stimulation – leaders encouraging employees to challenge standards in the organisation and display innovation.
- Individual consideration – leaders adapting to the individual needs of each follower.
The benefits of adopting this style of leadership cannot be understated, as studies indicate that one of three predictors of lower accident rates is the strength of transformational leadership in an organisation. Employees also benefit from this effective safety leadership style through increased problem-solving capacity, management of risks, self-belief and confidence to identify and report hazards. With improved skills and drive for safety excellence in its employees, the organisation will benefit through a reduction of workplace incidents and associated physical, psychological and economic consequences.
If you would like to know more about how your organisation can improve its safety leadership, contact TMS Consulting through firstname.lastname@example.org, or (07) 3003 1473.
1 – SafeWork Australia (2013) http://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au
2 – WorkFocus (2013) http://www.workfocus.com/news/the-cost-of-workplace-injury.aspx
3 – Wu, T. C (2005) The Validity and Reliability of Safety Leadership Scales in Universities of Taiwan. International Journal of Technology and Engineering Education
4 – Bell, N., Powell, C., Sykes, P (2015) Transformational Leadership. The Safety & Health Practitioner.
5 – Innes, M., Turner, N., Barling, J., Stride, C (2010) Transformational Leadership and Employee Safety Performance: A Within-Person, Between Jobs Design. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology.