Safety Performance Starts with Leadership
Suppose you want to accelerate the safety performance of your organization, but you have limited resources to get started. Where would you invest your limited resources? Leadership should be your answer, as it is truly the heart of the matter. In fact, elevating Safety Leadership is the single most important thing an organization can do to set improvement in motion. Leadership is the place you want to go first, with the most energy that you can, and that will innervate all the other things that influence good safety outcomes. What does that look like? On this page you’ll find a variety of resources exploring the role that leadership plays in safety performance.
Video: Safety Leadership
In this video, Tom Krause explains why leadership is the most important aspect of improving safety performance. The video includes an interview with Paul O’Neil (former US Treasury Secretary) about how he transformed the Alcoa corporation with safety leadership.
From Millions to Billions: This CEO had One Core Mission
Paul O’Neill was the CEO of Alcoa from 1987 to 2000. Under his leadership, Alcoa’s market value increased from $3 billion in 1986 to $27.53 billion in 2000, while net income increased from $200 million to $148 billion. O’Neill began his first speech to Alcoa shareholders in 1987 by saying, “I want to talk to you about worker safety.” The room fell silent.
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How to Undermine the Credibility Of Safety Leadership in Your Organization
Organizational leaders are always in the process of seeking out and developing talented people who can take on responsibilities and attain objectives. The higher up you get the more important this becomes. If you could just find five people who could do what you can do, or what your top leader is doing, life would be great. This applies to safety leadership…
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Chapter 3: Safety Leadership – The Single Most Important Thing an Organization Can Do to Set Improvement in Motion
Leaders who embody a strong personal value for safety allocate resources, recognize contributions, talk about safety; and get personally involved. They hold themselves to the same high standards that they hold others to. They educate themselves, look into issues, and ask questions. They take action when they see someone in harm’s way, and, crucially, they take action on issues before bad things happen.
A Case Study in Safety Leadership
Organizations have been using employee-driven observation and feedback to improve safety performance since the 1980s with surprising variation in the results. When a group of consultants and their client organizations wanted to better understand the reasons for the variation, they contributed hundreds of interviews, focus groups, work samples, and observation data to an analysis. The analysis led to many useful insights, the most important of which was the critical role of managers and supervisors, even in employee-driven processes. We take this finding for granted today, but in the 1990s when we did the project, it was a revelation. As a result of this work, the roles and responsibilities of supervisors and managers changed and were better defined, and organizations began to focus on leadership in a different way. Organizations that integrated these findings into their observation processes from the beginning achieved significantly better outcomes compared to those who didn’t.
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