You don’t have to have all the answers – it’s probably better if you don’t
When I first started working in safety, I was what you would probably have called a safety crusader, wearing my cape, carrying my most recent copy of the legislation in one hand and my safety observation booklet in the other. I was convinced that I had been hired to keep everyone safe and that if someone got hurt, I hadn’t done my job very well.
As you can imagine, that approach went down like a lead balloon, as I sometimes isolated people because “I knew about the legislation, had studied safety and my ideas should be listened to.” No wonder I struggled to engage the employees. I listened to their ideas, but thought I knew better and guess what? It took much longer to get anything implemented because I had to overcome resistance before we could make any changes. Also, it wasn’t always easy, and looking back, I don’t really blame them.
It didn’t take me long to change my tune to something that was much more engaging. I got rid of my cape, and very rarely carried anything other than a notebook in my hands, so I could remember the conversations I had as I walked around workplaces.
How did I turn it around?
I spent more than 50% of my time on the “shop floor” asking questions and really listening to the answers. Many of the concerns being raised were not unreasonable requests and could be solved quite quickly. I often found myself asking “how do you think we could address this issue?” before jumping in and trying to solve it all for them.
I left my ego at the door and remembered why I started working in the safety and risk field in the first place. It’s 90% about relationships and connection and about 10% compliance and meeting targets. People’s reactions to you as a safety person can make or break your career and your spirit.
What I’ve learned
People who are involved in developing the solution are more likely to adopt and adapt to the change. I know it’s simple, but it’s easy to forget when you’re in the thick of it. People want to share their ideas, and often, they are better than yours. This is simply because they are immersed in the situation daily and can clearly see a better way forward.
One last piece of advice
If you’re going to listen, be prepared to act OR provide a reason why you can’t. As I’ve said before, if the workforce can’t trust you with the little issues, they aren’t coming to you for help with the big ones.
Make sure you:
- Ask a lot of questions
- Listen to the answers
- Ask for clarification
- Apply the solutions wherever possible
Stacy Hamilton, Founder of Find It, Fix It, Own It
I’m someone who sort of fell into safety 15 years ago, not really knowing that it was a “real job or career” and I haven’t looked back. I get to combine my love of people and my love of science together and get the best of both worlds, in my opinion. I’m a proud Canadian and Australian and often refer to myself as a CanAussie.
I’ve worked in many different industries including telecommunications, warehousing and logistics, FMCG, local government and manufacturing to name a few. It doesn’t matter the industry, the issues that are presented to me are similar:
- How do I get my employees to follow the rules?
- How do I build/improve my business’ safety culture?
- Why won’t anyone report hazards?
- I need a safety manual for x reason
Through the articles I share, I hope to be able to answer these questions for you and many more.
I build safety systems for companies that people want to use (no, really!) and deliver training that people don’t forget when they walk out of the room.
My latest endeavour, which is launching early 2018, is bringing together young and new workers, their parents, their front-line supervisors and the business owners to work out the mystical, magical methods of the importance of personal safety at work and how that can apply to life. It’s the why that goes along with the what and the how (any Simon Sinek fans out there?).
Contact details are:
Mobile :0437 198 927
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