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Supervisor Training: Helping Create a Workplace Safety Culture that Really Pays Off

Posted by Daniel Feerst on

It's a fact. Peer pressure is amazingly powerful. Do you know why? And do you know why it can be so powerful in business and 

Supervisor Training: Creating a Workplace Safety Culture


Many employees, in fact all of us to some degree, have been conditioned to look at supervisors with ire and suspicion because they represent authority and they control something we highly value -- money. Their power is associated with a paycheck and the threat of taking away our income.

Even supervisors they have no intention of using this management leverage, all employees have a built-in ability to rationalize and defend themselves from the boss--and we learned this from our parents--you simply say to yourself--phooey on you.

Peers are different. It is hard to reject them because we are all social animals. We gain our identity from the larger environment of people around us. Relationships are crucial. In fact, they are so crucial, that recent scientific studies show that you can shorten your life by not having any.

We have been desiring peer approval since we were old enough to walk. We get value from our peers -- when your friends like you, wow, it's a rush. We want acceptance from them. Indeed, they hold much more power and sway over our behavior than a boss. Peers can influence our behavior because we have fewer defenses against them.

Try arguing with your boss over anything. Now try arguing with six coworkers who say you are wrong about something. No contest--peers will blow you away. You don't stand a chance.

When it comes to the inability to confront the group--a mastermind of opinion against us--we are more likely to lose any battle and conform. This is what a culture of workplace safety is all about -- reducing risk by using peer management influences to make behavior of employees conform with required safety standards.

With all that said, establishing a culture of safety in your work unit or organization does not happen simply by hanging safety posters and trying to remember to "think safety."

Everyone must pitch in.

Try this strategy: Add peer reinforcement to improve safe workplace practices. Spend a few minutes in staff or team meetings having each member give feedback to peers on how well each has properly conformed to safety practices.  Discuss unsafe work conditions needing attention, pointing out unsafe work practices with individuals, and what was done right. Do this for a minimum of 8 weeks. After that, 1x per month will keep the ball rolling.

In the group meetings, do not display emotion, no negativity, no discussion, just information -- any defensive interaction is not responded to or interacted with. Violate this simple guideline, and you will diminish the power of the feedback and its ability to change behavior. Just point it out. Period. Nothing else.

Use the group setting as described, and do it regularly. You will begin influence a safety mindset, especially if the boss plays no roll in piling on. He or she should just sit there, and not use their influence. Say nothing. Stare at the floor if needed. If the boss gets involved, it will undermine the group dynamic described above.

The power of above technique is outlined in books by Yalom - America's greatest group work therapist. Just let the group give the feedback or point out the safety issue, do it consistently, and let the magic of peer influence do the work.

Behavioral change from peer influence that results from above may prevent an injury or save a life. Remembering to practice safety will have more staying power among group members over time. Eventually, peers will point out safety infractions as they occur in real time.

Try the above for a minimum of 8 weeks. After a month every two weeks will keep the ball rolling and influence employee behavior. 

Try these associated training programs to help our workforce communicate, reduce risk, and increase productivity, lead employees more effectively, and improve morale.

14 Vital Skills for Supervisors
Supervisors Role in Creatng a Respectful Workplace
Emotional Intelligence for Supervisors

#workplace safety, #safetyculture, #preventingaccidents,

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