Last month I was speaking to a group of supervisors and middle managers about the role of the front-line supervisor in workplace safety. We discussed that in some organizations, workplace safety and health responsibilities are assigned to a safety committee or a safety coordinator. And in many cases, injury prevention efforts fall short due to the fact that safety committees and safety coordinators are limited in their authority and aren't always available to ensure safe work practices.
However, the front-line supervisor does have the necessary authority and availability to ensure safe work practices. Who better to evaluate work conditions, safe behaviors, and employee skill levels?
Unfortunately, some organizations do not assign safety related activities to their supervisors, or educate them on leadership skills - they are expected to already have these skills or to learn on the job. As a result, many supervisors rely on their technical skills rather than the all-important human and conceptual skills necessary to lead.
Technical skills-- knowing how to do a job--are critical for teaching and coaching employees while human skills such as honesty, communication, sincerity, motivation, respect, and ensuring safe work, are essential for effective leadership. Conceptual workplace skills such as organization, job preparation, and evaluating employee skill are equally essential. Effective use of technical, human, and conceptual skills will help the supervisor foster a safe, high performance workplace.
Want proof that you should work on your human skills? Ask your employees and fellow supervisors to name some traits of the best supervisor that they have ever worked for. Write them down and note how many fall into the human skills category-you may be surprised!
Want to know more about leadership in safety? Join MEMIC for a one hour webinar on January 19, 2011 at 11 a.m.