To effectively manage the WHS challenges within modern-day industry it has become evident that relying solely on a Management System will only take an organisation so far. To make the step-change improvement in safety performance, organisations can implement Safety Leadership programs, espousing a clear and strong commitment to safety, through visible leadership and positive engagement with the workforce.
This principle of visible leadership is not new – its origins can to be traced back in history to Viking and Roman military campaigns. In an occupational sense, the modern day tracing of this principle dates well back to the 70s, when positive examples were recorded whereby Executive Managers for the major oil companies visited their rigs in the North Sea (which would not have been an easy task), then once on-site interacted with the workers to explore their concerns.
The ‘Visible Leader’ is the personification of the organisation’s commitment to safety, setting a personal example of the expected behaviours, as well as providing the perfect opportunity to interact meaningfully with workers.
In terms of current WHS Legislation, Management obligations and duties have evolved, and getting Managers out of their offices and into the workplace to undertake meaningful interactions can provide the key insights in relation to their due diligence requirements. However, there are still instances where Managers attempt to undertake their WHS duties ‘in absentia’, with minimal on-site leadership presence and no attendance at WHS Committee or Audit closing meetings.
While it is acknowledged that ensuring a Management presence across multiple sites and rotating shifts can be a challenge, it is vitally important in terms of the leadership message that it provides. Consideration should be given to establishing visual indicators that the Managers have been on-site, such as provision of updates on issues that they have resolved, a visible count of their interactions and the activities that they undertook, etc.
QRMC can assist with assessing safety culture and developing strategies to improve leadership. This topic will be further explored in QRMC’s upcoming Safety Networking Group session, including discussion of WHSQ’s work in relation to a safety culture and leadership toolkit.
The next Safety Networking Group session is scheduled for the morning of Friday 5th August in the Brisbane CBD – please contact QRMC if you would like more details.