Questioning Safety on Site
According to Andrew Sharman, the CEO of a global consultancy specialising in safety behaviour, culture and leadership, the new rule of safety is to question everything! He believes that despite the sophisticated frameworks, complex charts and strategic performance indicators which are designed to allow leaders and organisations to strive towards safety excellence, safety strategies depend on total integrations with people at all levels of any company in order to be effective.
When it comes to questioning, what begins as curiosity often leads to questions that drive progress in any given field, including safety. Sharman reckons that the “spirit of enquiry” is an under-rated leadership quality that we would all do well to adopt in future. Whilst modern leadership in organisations depends on first rate teamwork, communication and collaboration, trust and openness in the workplace is on the decline. This means that being able to question effectively and efficiently is becoming a critical workplace survival skill.
Questioning is a very human quality – good leaders are described as “human”, in that they build real connections with others by revealing something about themselves and asking something personal of others, with humility and genuine interest. This is what makes them real, or authentic and being “real” in your dealings with others is a powerful method of connecting with them.
If you think about it for a moment and consider your own life experiences (whether at work, at home or in society in general), real human connection is based on curiosity. To be a good leader you have to be curious about those who work with you. To be a good partners you need to remain curious about the other person. To be a good parent, you need to stay curious about your child. To be a great safety professional, you need to be curious about those with whom you work.
Leaders, especially leaders in safety, should ask questions of the workforce to help build better relationships around safety and make safety an integral part of your company culture. Here are some types of questions that you could be asking:
- If I were working with you today, what would I need to know to be able to work safely?
- What one small thing could we do today to make working here even safer?
- What are the things that could cause harm while carrying out this task? How can we make sure that they don’t?
Studies show that behaviours can be actively transferred from leaders to employees, and positive behaviours can be passed from person to person throughout an organisation. It’s also the case that negative behaviours can also be passed on just as effectively! This means that leaders and managers in any organisation who adopt a positive, can-do approach to safety can have a positive impact on raising safety standards throughout an organisation. So for anybody wondering if their behaviour truly has an impact, the answer is a resounding ‘Yes”! Paying attention to safety, and being seen to do so, can reduce the number of incidents in the workplace, including on construction sites.