What every CEO needs to know about safety


What every CEO needs to know about safety

For many CEOs, safety is their highest priority. It is a table stake for how they want their business run. They hold a genuine concern for the people under their charge. It’s personal.

So when a person is hurt, anxiety levels understandably rise. The pain and suffering of the person and the obvious weight of often, onerous legislation. CEOs look to act but are bombarded with questionable safety programs, based on dated notions of why people do what they do. It’s a tough job at the top.

But there is a better way. Armed with a few key principles, a set of good questions and a growth mindset, safety can be the jewel in the crown of every organisation.

The key principles

The first key principle involves absolute clarity of the core elements of an incident. They are; hazardous energy (something which can hurt you), a person or people and leadership. Understanding the interplay of each element is critical. The principle is “To get hurt, a person must contact hazardous energy or hazardous energy contacts a person or both”. Look at every incident based on these 3 elements.

The second principle is a bit like the advice Bill Gates gave to graduates; “Life’s not fair, get over it”. In the workplace, You can’t get rid of all the hazards so get over it. Hazard removal follows the law of diminishing returns. Apply the 80:20 rule for hazards and look at all the core elements to maximise return.

The third principle relates to how we think about the decisions we make. The reality is, people don’t make conscious decisions, most of the time. Habits dominate our behaviours. Habits come from our automatic thinking, not our logical and rational thinking. Think of most decisions made as the habitual one’s, not the best ones.

The fourth principle follows on from the third, and is about behaviour or should I say, habits. The principle is Being in the line of fire hurts. An understanding of line of fire hazards and habitually looking for them is what matters. Not being in the line of fire ensures injury will not occur.

The fifth principle applies when we are talking about teams. It is Leadership changes everything. Time and again, the history of human endeavours show leadership is the difference between success and failure. From the sporting field, the battlefield and business. Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “There are no bad soldiers, just bad officers”. The same holds true for any pursuit involving a group of people. Success comes from effective leadership.

So the principles are:

  1. To get hurt a person must contact hazardous energy or hazardous energy contacts a person or both
  2. You can’t get rid of all the hazards. Get over it.
  3. Habits dominate our behaviours.
  4. Being in the line of fire hurts.
  5. Leadership changes everything

The good questions

Great CEOs know good questions are game changers. They use them to motivate and inspire. When asked with humility, they build rapport and respect. Good questions create open discussion and above all opportunities to learn for everyone.

So what are good questions? They are open questions. The type of questions you can’t answer yes or no. Open questions make you think. They create a deeper connection between two people. They often include the words, “why is that?” or “can you help me understand?”. They get to the core of what is going on. Open questions are good questions. Leaders know they are a superpower and use them all the time.

The growth mindset

As the commander-in-chief of the organisation, the CEO has all the responsibility to ensure the organisation grows. No growth means death.

With the growth mindset, the CEO knows their basic abilities are developed with dedication and hard work. This is how everyone’s abilities are developed. A good starting point is brains and talent but dedication is the fuel and hard work the process.

But what do we grow to improve safety? You guessed it, Leadership. Specifically, grow safety leadership.

Leadership changes everything. If your …….. culture is bad, look at your leadership. Your team’s ……….. performance is poor or they are not solving ……. problems, look at leadership. Place the word “safety” in the previous sentences and you know what I mean.

Develop leadership with a growth mindset. Leaders aren’t born they are grown.

So, Mr CEO….you now have the fundamentals to improve safety in your business. Key principles to frame your thinking. Questions to engage, build trust and seeking out root causes to problems. And critically, growing and developing the team’s and your leadership.

This is what every CEO needs to know about safety.


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