Leadership’s role in fostering a safety culture in Kiwi industry

By Craig Carlyle, director at Maintenance Transformations

Leadership has a vital role to play in shaping the safety culture within New Zealand industry. Leaders hold the power to create an environment that supports and protects employees. Unfortunately, the converse is true and poor leadership often confronts WorkSafe when investigating incidents. There are several reasons why leadership is so significant in fostering a safety culture specific to Kiwi industry.

Setting the tone

Effective leaders understand that safety should be at the very heart of our values, not just a bunch of rules. They set the tone by responding logically and sensibly to safety considerations in their actions and decisions. Safety is never ignored, but effective leaders are not blinded by dogma. Instead, they use practical health and safety tools to empower workers to stay alive and safe. This sends a powerful message to workers that safety is both non-negotiable and an integral part of working world.

Establishing clear expectations

Leadership needs to establish crystal-clear expectations when it comes to safety performance. They craft logical safety policies and procedures, effectively communicate them, and ensure they are consistently followed throughout our organisations.

Changing the perspective

Leader’s care about their responsibilities from the perspective of the PCBU, laws, regulations, and penalties, but the worker (and his/her family) is more invested in keeping alive and healthy. Changing your perspective to your workers allows you a new view; how can that individual remain safe and healthy and what tools he or she need from you to achieve that? How could taking that shortcut effect the family if he/she is killed or injured?

Empowering workers

Effective leaders encourage open communication, provide channels for reporting hazards, and involve employees in safety-related decision-making. Is that health and safety “rule” a legal requirement or just safety fashion that will undermine your credibility in the workplace? Framing your decisions around the benefit to your worker and involving them in the process fosters a sense of ownership and shared responsibility, leading to greater engagement and a stronger safety culture.

Leading by example

Ultimately, leaders must lead by example to foster a safety culture. They adhere to safety protocols themselves, wear personal protective equipment, and actively participate in safety initiatives. By embodying the behaviour, we desire, leaders inspire employees to follow suit, creating a ripple effect that permeates our entire organisations.

Leadership is the driving force behind creating and nurturing a safety culture in Kiwi industry. By setting the tone, establishing clear expectations, empowering employees, recognising safety efforts, and leading by example, leaders can shape workplaces that prioritise the well-being of our people. Through their actions, leaders in our industry have the power to shape a safer future, one where safety isn’t just a priority but an inseparable part of our everyday operations.

Craig Carlyle is director at Maintenance Transformations. His expertise lies in the practical application of maintenance and health and safety management systems in the workplace. He is also a life member of the Maintenance Engineering Society of NZ.