Workers need to be self-motivated to look out continually for the safety and health of others. Managers and supervisors need to do the same, but how can they facilitate self-motivation among employees?

Explain why: Don’t tell people what to do without including the “why” — the connection between the specific task and the organization’s larger mission or vision.

It’s not easy: Admit safety-related behaviors can be inconvenient and uncomfortable. Give reasonable rationale.

 Watch your language: Your language should suggest personal choice and minimal external pressure.  “All accidents are preventable,” for example, reduces a sense of autonomy. In contrast, “Safety is a core value we cannot compromise” reflects personal authenticity, interpersonal relatedness, and human interaction.

Provide opportunities for choice: Don’t give mandates but rather set expectations. Request “commitment,” not “compliance.”

Involve the followers: Those on the “front line” know best what actions should be avoided versus performed to optimize safety. 

Set SMARTS goals: The most effective goals are SMARTS: Specific, Motivational, Achievable, Relevant, Trackable, and Shared.

Use feedback: People’s perception of competence is enhanced when they receive sincere behavior-based recognition (or supportive feedback).  Show empathy and compassion when correcting at-risk behavior.  Be non-directive, actively listen to excuses, and emphasize the positive over the negative.  Specific behavioral feedback improves competence.

Celebrate to increase a sense community: Pinpoint behaviors and processes that enabled achievement of the celebrated milestone. Facilitate discussions of the activities that made the journey successful. Ask employees for input rather than listen passively to management.

Build interpersonal trust: Communicate these guidelines in a candid and caring way to open up dialogue that supports self-motivation.  With character and commitment, people need to give each other consistent and candid feedback.  The recipient of candid corrective feedback should accept it with caring appreciation and commitment to improve.  Then, the recipient shows character to thank the observer.  Interpersonal communication builds consensus and supports continuous improvement to an injury-free workplace.