Management of the environment and the measures that ensure industrial safety is a key concern for managers, both for ethical reasons and because safety is a legal responsibility.
In order to increase the safety of personnel and manage technological risk, industrial companies have, for many years, implemented measures focused on the optimization of facilities and activities and the implementation of safety management systems. However, safety results seem to have reached a plateau where further improvement goes beyond technical approaches and procedures and requires greater attention to human and organizational factors.
Good organization provides the basis for coherent planning and consistent actions. However, it is essential to take the human factor into account, ideally from the outset, to ensure that these actions are relevant and properly implemented.
Why is leadership important? While the aim of human and organizational factors is, to promote the development of safer individual and collective behaviour at all levels of the company, change will not happen unless it is backed by firm managerial commitment.
The traditional role of the manager is to manage, i.e., to accomplish their tasks to the best of their ability, to plan activities or give orders. However, it can also the difference between include a willingness to influence, guide or direct their colleagues, a manager and a leader. This is what distinguishes a leader from a manager. It is fundamental to safety improvements as collective mobilization goes hand-in-hand with managerial leadership. Leadership is understood here as the ability of the manager to influence behaviour so that it becomes safer.
However, leadership is not the exclusive domain of management. Other leaders, notably union representatives, some experts or senior staff members can also influence behaviour. Although their influence is different and complementary to that of the hierarchy, it nevertheless plays a determining role in safety. Consequently, we will also examine the leadership of personnel representatives who are members of the Health and safety committee and who have an institutional role in the domain of safety.
Managerial leadership can be exercised through various drivers:
- individual attitudes and behaviour
- direct action by the manager on the individual or collective behaviour of employees
- indirect factors such as working conditions
- the organization.
Members of the Health and safety committee are primarily able to exercise leadership through 1, or 3 and 4 using methods provided by law.
The behaviour of management is what most influences the behaviour of staff in the field.
On the one hand, each individual manages their priorities according to their working environment and the messages they receive. Workers generally pay attention to the concerns of their manager, even if they are not stated explicitly. Put another way, if the boss is not interested in a particular domain, it is unlikely that their team will be!
On the other hand, spontaneous actions do not arise out of concern for the safety, health or well-being of individual workers. If change is to occur everyone must be aware of the issues, committed to the objectives and action must be coordinated.
In short, the conduct of managers themselves with respect to safety carries much more weight with workers than any slogans that can be devised by the company. Through their behaviour managers demonstrate the real value the company places on safety and it is a determining factor in the motivation of staff to take an active interest in safety.
The manager is the actor in the company that has the leeway to act on the factors that encourage the development of safety behaviours.
Safety leaders seek to directly influence the behaviour of employees by being present on the ground. They develop a systematic approach to safety that is focused on best practice, dialogue and a search for the root causes of risky behaviour. Moreover, they can indirectly influence behaviour by acting on human and organizational factors that are equally important in achieving a good safety culture, namely working conditions that promote optimal performance.
Management plays a pivotal role in deciding trade-offs between safety and other challenges.
In an increasingly competitive production environment quality, costs and delays are the major concerns. Safety improvements therefore require visible, concrete and ongoing managerial commitment. Managers must decide priorities taking into account all objectives, in the context of the company’s political and ethical framework. They must integrate, synthesize and prioritize challenges and objectives. This activity ensures consistency between sometimes competing activities and provides an essential guideline for everyone involved. Although HSE professionals have an important leadership role, they cannot full these responsibilities alone.
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