Friday, December 08, 2006

Leadership: A Blueprint for Leaders

How to design intervention strategies for safety improvement ...

"In my August 2006 column, I presented the case for leading with safety. I argued that leaders today have an unprecedented opportunity to enhance organizational functioning by creating safety excellence.

Some would argue (rightly) that safety happens at the floor level of the organization; it is ultimately about the worker interacting with the technology. What, then, connects organizational leaders to safety mechanisms and controls such that they can assure safety improvement?

There are a multitude of factors that go into making a successful safety leader. In our experience, however, these leaders all begin with an understanding of a set of core concepts that define organizational safety functioning as a whole.

A Multi-Dimensional Model

Conventional safety thinking has focused largely on what we call safety enabling systems; mechanisms that directly seek to reduce or remove exposure to hazards in the workplace. They include hazard recognition and mitigation, training, regulation, procedures, policies and the like. Some systems are arguably more effective than others, and many (such as the hierarchy of controls) are agreed to be essential.

This focus, which tends to exclude attention to broader organizational elements, produces a rather flat picture of safety functioning. Supply the right systems, the thinking goes, and results will follow. Studies and experience, however, have shown this vision to be flawed. Different sites with practically identical enabling systems are known to report very different incident frequency rates, even when weighted for technology and work forces.

Effective leaders seem to be distinguished by their ability to take a "big picture" view of how safety performance occurs. They see enabling systems not as the sole determinant of safety outcomes, but as an important piece of a larger picture. This model encompasses five key elements, and provides leaders with a roadmap for applying their influence to assure safety improvement."    (Continued via Occupational Hazards)    [Ergonomics Resources]

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