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A Supervisor's Guide to Safety Leadership

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It never seems right to have just one author on a book like this. While I typed out the words, the content came from my experiences and interactions with  many  people  over  many  years.

 All  of  my  extraordinary  colleagues  at Aubrey Daniels International (ADI) helped either directly or indirectly with this book. In particular I want to thank Tom Spencer who has supported me in all I have done and makes everything he edits better. Cloyd Hyten, Bart Sevin,  and  Dave  Uhl  provided  feedback  that  improved  the  book  and  have shaped  my  thinking  and  consulting  work  in  positive  ways. 

 Julie  Terling helped  keep  the  content  real  and  readable.  Laura  Lee  Glass  fixed  my grammatical  gaffs  and  inconsistencies.  Lisa  Smith  made  the  book  look beautiful. I am also indebted to all of the clients I have had the privilege to work with over the years. I learned from all of you.

 Finally, I want to thank my family for their love and support. My mom Joyce,  my  brother  Blaine,  and  my  sister  Claire  always  cheer  me  on.  My father  Hinds,  I  think,  would  be  proud.

  My  wonderful  husband  Bruce encourages me and picks up the slack when my work takes me away. And my amazing children, Matthew and Kianna—watching them become thoughtful, intelligent,  kind,  funny,  and  loving  people  has  been  the  greatest  joy  in  my life.

The short answer is because lives depend on your safety leadership. The long answer has to do with your critical role in this complex thing called  safety.A safe workplace takes a coordinated effort on the part of all employees.

 Senior leaders establish safety-oriented vision and values; middle managers  put  into  effect  safety  management  systems,  procedures,  and accountability;  and  frontline  employees  complete  the  work  as  safely  as possible. Frontline supervisors have perhaps the most crucial role—they are the linchpinsof safety.

Wikipedia  defines  the  word  linchpin as  “something  (or  someone)  that holds  the  various  elements  of  a  complicated  structure  together.”  Frontline supervision is where safety comes together, where the vision and values are executed,  where  procedures  are  complied  with,  where  decisions  are implemented,  and  where  safety  can  be  seen.  It  is  the  moment-by-moment decisions  and  actions  of  the  frontline  supervisor  that  ensure  the  safety  of frontline performers.

 Linchpins  have  to  be  strong.  There  are  pressures  from  every  direction: your boss, your peers, and your direct reports. There are pressures around all of  the  key  performance  indicators:  production,  quality,  customer  service, employee  satisfaction,  and  of  course,  safety.  The  list  of  responsibilities  is long and frontline supervisors are pushed and pulled every day. It is easy to get distracted by seemingly competing priorities. 

But here’s the bottom line —lives are in your hands. Your team depends on you to help them stay alive and unharmed. Nothing in your job is more important than preventing injury in the workplace.

Reading  this  book  won’t  magically  transform  you  into  the  perfect frontline  supervisor.  It  will,  however,  give  you  practical  tools  to  improve your safety management and safety leadership. While the tools are based on the science of behavior, the scientific discussion is kept to a minimum. 

The most essential information from the science is listed at the end of this chapter. If  you  want  to  learn  more  about  the  science,  recommended  readings  are provided.  This  book  is  organized  around  nine  essential  safety  leadership practices.  

It’s  possible  you  have  mastered  some  of  these  already  or  maybe you need to work on all nine. Mastering these leadership practices will lead to improvements in safety. But the practices apply beyond safety. It turns out that good safety leadership is really good people leadership.