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Leadership Plays Pivotal Role in Creating Safety Culture

Leaders need to rethink their notion of “culture.

Jim Spigener of BST Solutions has found three universal truths from his research over the past 20 years:

  1. Culture is the ultimate predictor of safety performance.
  2. Senior leaders make or break the culture of the company.
  3. “Very few leaders are born great leaders. They make themselves great leaders.”

According to a report from EHS Today from its 2014 Safety Leadership Conference, this senior VP of a consulting firm said leaders need to rethink their notion of “culture.” He told conference attendees that companies need to create cultures that place a premium on managing risk exposure rather than on avoiding injuries.

Spigener has analyzed 1700 workplace fatalities and interviewed thousands of injured workers. In each case, he found that the workers did not expect to get hurt. However, all of them were aware that they were exposing themselves to risk levels that exceeded their employers’ standards, EHS Today reported.

Spigener went on to present seven leadership best practices:

  1. Vision – How do you convey your vision of safety? “Not your company’s vision – that’s meaningless,” Spigener added. “I’ve learned that if it’s written on the wall, it ain’t true.”
  2. Credibility – Are your actions consistent with your words? Do you treat all employees with dignity and respect?
  3. Action orientation – Are you engaged in safety? “Can people see that you actually have skin in the game?” Spigener asked. “If you don’t put any skin in the game, they don’t believe it’s real to you.”
  4. Safety communication – When you talk about safety, do you talk about “what’s real to you and what’s real to them, or do you just talk about numbers and costs and uptime?”
  5. Collaboration – Do you work with people? Do you seek your team members’ input?
  6. Feedback and recognition – How often do you talk to employees about the contributions that they make to safety? “It doesn’t matter if it’s an individual behavior or an activity that a supervisor did. Are you actually connecting the feedback and recognition that you give to the thing that we say is most important to us?”
  7. Accountability – “Are you holding people accountable, and are you requiring that they hold themselves accountable for doing the right thing when it comes to safety?” Spigener asked.


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