Safety Leadership Training

Safety Leadership Training – Principle to Practice

Safety success rises and falls on the leadership of the organization – and leadership is all about influence.  Your learning environment has to teach your leaders how to persuade others to work safe.  Leaders have to know how to motivate people to work injury-free.  Leaders have to balance positive motivation and consequences for noncompliance to drive exceptional performance.  Build your culture with safety leadership training that teaches leaders their roles and responsibilities, tools for safety communication expectations, and techniques they can use to accomplish your HIGH expectations.  You also need to equip leaders with the appropriate level of technical safety skills so they can identify and control risk.


The “know how” for safety leadership is vital, but also remember that adults want to know what is in it for them.  It is rare that an individual plans to get hurt or they feel like injuries are just part of the job.  Combat this lackadaisical attitude by giving people a cause to champion.  A “cause” is an objective, a reason, or a motive for working in a common direction.  An injury-free environment alone is a good motive to work safely, but a day with no injuries is assumed.  An injury-free day does not feel like a reward, and a normal day can create apathy towards safety processes.  Avoid complacency and give employees targets, milestones, and achievements to accomplish.  Leaders build positive momentum with a “cause” that recognizes achievement.


The cause is more than the day-to-day processes with mundane rewards.  The cause is the bigger enticement.  The cause is the image of excellence.  The cause is the fruit of your labor and the results of your sacrifice.  Think about Olympic athletes for a moment.  They train relentlessly.  Is their ultimate reward the fact that they are great physical condition?  Athletes train for much more!  They train so they can compete with other skilled athletes and prove they are the best.  The “cause” is the opportunity to stand on the stage with the spotlight on the gold medals around your neck.  There is value in the process, but there is motivation in the outcome.


safety leadership trainingShow your leaders “what’s in it for them” so that they have a cause to champion.  For example, OSHA’s VPP program is a tremendous cause to champion and every step towards that cause strengthens your safety culture.  The VPP program requires you to implement proven principles that achieve success.  The reward is the opportunity to fly the VPP flag at your site.  When you achieve VPP, you are a part of an elite group of companies.  You benefit from a safer work environment, but you also take pride in the recognition from OSHA.  When you achieve VPP, it is like standing on the stage with the spotlight on your medals.


Train leaders on the skills and techniques they need to drive success, but also include a “cause” to motivate your leaders.  The cause could be their impact on building the safety culture.  The cause can include the milestones you want to achieve.  The cause can include a need to address a crisis at your site.  There is no magic formula, but keep the motivation in front of people throughout the training – make it even more visible when the training is complete.  Frequently reinforce your leaders with the message about why safety is important to them (what’s in it for them!)  Focus your leaders on their responsibility to protect people – but do not assume that your leaders know how to sway people in the right direction.  You may also need to provide training on how to sway people.


Organizations committed to safety demonstrate the depth of their safety culture with the time they dedicate to safety leadership development.  Your team will know you mean business when you allocate time to develop their ability to influence safety performance.


Throughout my career, I have documented leadership qualities I like and dislike.  I have compiled a list based on the successes and failures I have witnessed in other leaders.   My list knows no organizational boundaries because I believe leadership is a 360-degree concept.  A job title does not dictate one’s ability to influence.  I want to share the list for two reasons: 1) the list identifies qualities that help leaders; 2) the list provides traits that you can choose to develop in yourself and in your organization.


You can’t expect everyone to embody the full list of admired qualities, but you can decide which traits are most important and relative to the tools we have discussed thus far in the book.


Qualities I Admire in a Leader
1.      Serve.

2.      Inspire you to believe.

3.      Have passion for their cause.

4.      Follow-up on initiatives.

5.      Communicate a vision.

6.      Influence in 360 degrees.

7.      Connect with people.

8.      Refuse to dwell on destructive issues.

9.      Are dependable.

10.    Make you want to do better.

11.    Can focus people on a “concept” or an “idea.”

12.    Help you rise to the next level.

13.    Do more than what is asked of them.

14.    Demonstrate control when frustrated.

15.    Are diplomatic.

16.    Ask the right questions to make you think.

17.    Demonstrate wisdom.

18.    Are consistent with a message.

19.    Can see the root of the issue.

20.    Can be compassionate and firm.

21.    Take innovative chances.


22.    Recognize the facts and remain positive.

23.    Can lead more than a formula.

24.    Demonstrate courage.

25.    Have specific “nonnegotiable” principles.

26.    Do more than dream.  They realize the dream.

27.    Live above mistakes.

28.    Reveal their values with their questions.

29.    Help you go places you could not have gone.

30.    Can lead despite criticism.

31.    Plan and anticipate.

32.    Attract people without pursuing them.

33.    Draw loyalty.

34.    Support their team.

35.    Do not take themselves too seriously.

36.    Match their actions with words.

37.    Refuse dishonest reward.

38.    Value honesty.

39.    Are firm – they know who they are.

40.    Are guided by an idea.

41.    Build greater success incrementally.

42.    Bring value to those they serve.



Leadership is more than a policy, process, or procedure.  Leadership includes qualities “between-the–lines” that drive the policy, process, or procedure.  Make sure you weave the qualities of leadership into the tools you embrace.  Here is a sample safety leadership training agenda with potential topics.  The goal is to communicate your injury-free vision and provide leaders with the tools to accomplish the mission.


Safety Leadership Training Topics

Leadership Topics

(This is the WHY)

Tools and Techniques

(This is the HOW)

1.      Organizational Values

2.      Zero Incidents is Achievable

3.      Why Safety is Important

4.      The Benefits of a Zero Incident Culture

5.      The Power of a Leaders Question

6.      How You Will Measure Success

7.      Expectations and Responsibilities

8.      Character Traits of a Strong Leader

9.      How to Motivate People

10.    How to Communicate Your Message

1.      Demonstrate Your Visible Support

2.      Plan for Safety

3.      Measure Your Accountability

4.      Involve People in the Process

5.      Analyze Work with Audits

6.      Preplan Work with JSAs and TSA

7.      Train Employees with Safety Meetings

8.      Communicate Your Safety Message

9.      Show Commitment to the Rules

10.    Mentor New Employees


The most realistic perspective you can have is this – your safety performance will never out run your leadership.  Set the pace to achieve excellence in performance commensurate with your commitment to develop leaders.