OPINION: In Florida, safe workplaces start with leadership
Workplace safety is more important now than ever. Between 2011 to 2018, Florida ranked 34th in the nation with 1,950 workplace fatalities, and nearly 28% of those fatalities occurring in construction alone.
As chair of the Florida Chamber Safety Council and corporate safety leader with NextEra Energy, it’s been my experience that great safety performance is driven by great leadership at all levels of a company.
Show me a company with an authentically low injury/near-miss rate and I’ll bet that company has outstanding leadership. The inverse of that is true as well: companies that are struggling with their safety record are typically ones that have not exhibited the right safety leadership.
I believe that it starts with leadership’s belief that all injuries are preventable. It’s easy to label injury events and near misses as “accidents,” but that may imply the event was not preventable and this can divert the focus away from accountability and prevention.
The reality is that collectively, we have a great deal of control over the circumstances around us by taking the time to properly evaluate and address the hazards (both direct and latent).
The next core idea of almost any successful safety program is the understanding that leadership is responsible for preventing injuries. Leadership can be directly manifested for example by oversight of its employees via observations and coaching – or less directly, but just as important, by ensuring that employees are properly onboarded, trained, have the right tools and equipment, etc.
How do you drive leadership in your organization? Here are six questions that an organizational leader can ask to engage and drive accountability at every leader level:
How do you hold yourself accountable for injuries? Do post injury/near-miss discussions focus more on what the employee did wrong vs. missed leadership opportunities or process/system failures?
Are you soliciting and receiving feedback from your employees? Is there a good mechanism to capture feedback on what works – and what does not? Is there good engagement?
Are you recognizing safe behaviors? Is there a good mechanism to identify safe behaviors and recognize individuals and groups for safe behaviors and their contributions to safety?
How do you know if your employees understand your company’s safety rules and work processes? Is it through training completion? Knowledge verification?
How do you know if your employees are following the safety rules and work processes in the field/operations? Are broken rules mostly identified based on an event investigation – or through leadership presence in the field to validate the findings?
Are you a reactive or proactive organization? Do most of your safety initiatives and strategies result from learnings from injury events – or more from scanning for risks that may be identified via quality observations, audits, etc.?
Anyone can lead in safety, whether you are a leader/supervisor or informal leader. At the end of the day, it’s not about the safety statistics; it’s about avoiding an injury – and the negative and sometimes lifelong impact an injury can have on an employee and their family.
The Florida Chamber Safety Council is working to influence and provide additional tools to employers from a safety leadership perspective. Visit www.FLChamber.com/Resources to join the movement towards making Florida the safest, healthiest and most sustainable state in America.
You can make a difference!
Mark Morgan is chair of the Florida Chamber Safety Council. He is the senior human resources manager of corporate safety and workers’ compensation for NextEra Energy.
*Originally published with the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.