Supervisors key to creating safety culture

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Bart Craven
  • Air Force Space Command Inspector General, Safety Inspection Manager
Creating a safety culture to prevent mishaps is not easy. It requires the participation of an entire organization to prevent that next mishap from occurring. The key to the mishap prevention program is the supervisor; he or she makes the very foundation on which the mishap prevention program stands. 

Having knowledge of the very basic steps on how to prevent mishaps is critical to creating a safety culture. Supervisors who want to maintain a high operating standard must incorporate mishap prevention into their day-to-day operations and ensure personnel do not take short-cuts, which could result in an injury or lost work time. Some examples of why you may lose personnel, resources or productivity are: 
* Improper operation of equipment; 
* Failing to follow established standards (using short-cuts); and 
* Lack of knowledge or training. 

In my experience, "selling" safety to the masses has to be a top priority. Using the "black hat mentality," or rather playing the bad guy who enforces safety, no longer works. On a daily basis we work with many subordinates who are very curious and highly educated and will see right through that type of misguided mentality. 

Salesmanship and excellent supervision are essential to having a proactive safety program. If you show your people why a task must be done a certain way or show them the "pros and cons" for good and bad safety behavior, you'll find the results will be astonishing. 

Safety supervisors must develop a personal touch with their people to be successful in their safety "sales campaign." 

Influenceor convince your workers that performing a task the safe way all the time can prevent them from being injured or damaging government resources. You will then, in turn, lower your mishap rates on and off duty, all the while increasing your productivity and gaining the respect of your peers and coworkers. 

Supervisors who know their people and their work processes is not enough. You must also have the training and knowledge associated with the causes of mishaps. 

First, you should know the causes of past mishaps in your squadron, group or wing. Secondly, you should be able to recognize trends and how to prevent them. Third, you should be able to recognize sub-standard training at all levels. Finally, you need to ensure commanders and upper-level management are aware of the steps listed above to ensure leadership has direct control over all processes within their organizations. 

If a mishap does occur, these are some of the things that should be looked at or addressed: 
* Is there sub-standard work or a physical condition not previously identified? 
* Is there a violation of technical orders, Air Force instructions or directives? 
* Has there been a safety standard established for the procedure? 
* Has the same incident happened before here or at another location or base? 

Understanding why mishaps occur will help safety, commanders, upper management and supervisors battle the causes of mishaps, and it could help prevent another one from occurring. 

Finally, mishaps can be prevented if you create a safe environment for all.