Many articles about safety training emphasize management’s role in terms of their responsibility to develop and implement the training program. However, not enough is said about manager and supervisor involvement in safety training. If managers and supervisors never attend safety training, is safety truly an organizational value? It doesn’t appear that way to hourly workers who are required to attend training.

Safety training is more than classes and computer or DVD training. For a program to be effective, management and supervisors need to do more than stand on the sidelines directing the process. When management and supervisors attend safety meetings, do walkthroughs and talk to employees to gain their input, things can quickly change for the better.

The following ten rules of engagement will enable your management team to make an optimal contribution to your safety culture.
  1. Align with employees.

    Take the time to learn your hourly employees’ jobs and work areas. Most employees, when asked, are very happy to share what they do and how they do it. Who better knows how a job is done and how it can be done safely than the people who work in the facility every day? Employees are a valuable information resource that management and supervision must not overlook. Bottom line: listen!

  2. Lead by example.

    Hourly employees often mimic the actions of those above them. Managers and supervisors set the tone. If they violate or ignore safety hazards and behaviors, they encourage employees to do likewise.

  3. Learn the environment.

    The culture of a facility plays a paramount role in the safety process. Only if managers and supervisors know the existing culture can they make a change and help develop a new safety culture. One of the best methods to effect change is to conduct safety culture surveys done by outside resources for assurance of “no bias.” Taking this step is a positive sign to hourly workers that safety is important and is truly an organizational value.

  4. Entrust all employees to contribute.

    Empowerment of employees is a catch phrase that has become overused. Nonetheless, it really needs to happen for employees to want to actively participate in the safety program. Management and supervision need to provide the help, resources and encouragement for employees to make a contribution to safety training needs and to the safety process as a whole.

  5. Non-threatening environment provided.

    Employees need to feel safe when relaying safety issues and suggestions. If they are punished for reporting “near misses,” management will never be able to make use of one of the most successful tools for identifying and preventing potential accidents and injuries. Managers and supervisors need to be active in soliciting and rewarding this type of open communication.

  6. Gain trust.

    Developing trust between management, supervisors and hourly employees has always been challenging. The only way this situation can improve is for management and supervisors to become actively engaged in safety training and to continually encourage employees to share their extensive knowledge and first-hand experience.

  7. Action plan for training developed.

    A clear action plan must be developed each year and modified to meet the training needs of the facility and the employees. Inviting employees to work directly with managers and supervisors to develop this action plan can go a long way toward achieving an effective program.

  8. Give positive reinforcement.

    In the workplace as well as in normal living, people are very quick to give criticism. It is easy to take good actions for granted, and many people seldom offer positive reinforcement as basic as a “thank-you.” Take the time to provide positive reinforcement by recognizing safe behaviors and practices.

  9. Enliven training.

    Safety training is often not very exciting. When employees realize they have to go through yet another training session, their reaction is often dread followed by moaning. Whenever possible, inject an element of fun into training. Most people will tune out straight lecturing and monologue, so be sure to give employees plenty of opportunities to participate in the flow of communication. Participation exercises are valuable tools for engaging everyone in the process.

  10. Develop solid communication systems.

    The continual flow of communication in all directions has been, and always will be, an invaluable contributor to successful training and process efficiency. Management and supervision should be responsible for assuring that this flow is not impeded. A solid plan for keeping lines of communication open and for offering encouragement to employees must be developed and continually reviewed for effectiveness.