You Don't Need to Lead Alone: Grow More Safety Leaders

A popular leadership quote says, "The real job of a leader is not to recruit more followers. The job is to grow more leaders." This is especially true for overworked construction safety professionals trying to lead their organization to better safety outcomes and a positive safety culture. The research is clear: Safety leadership training improves safety climate, the best measure of safety culture. And safety climate is correlated with reduced job site injuries. If you can help your foremen and lead workers become effective safety leaders, you can have greater influence on safety without doing it all yourself.

There is a new tool to help you, the Foundations of Safety Leadership (FSL) training developed by the Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR) in partnership with industry and academic stakeholders. The FSL can help your foremen and lead workers understand the skills they need to be safety leaders and also how to put them into practice. Providing the FSL helps show your commitment to job site safety and gives you a competitive edge.

During the 2.5-hour course, participants learn how to use the following five critical safety leadership skills:

  • Leading by example
  • Engaging and empowering workers
  • Actively listening and practicing 3-way communication
  • Developing workers through Teaching, Coaching, & Feedback
  • Recognizing crew members for going above & beyond for safety

They will learn the cost of not putting the five skills into practice, as well as the benefits of doing so, including:

  • Fewer injuries and illnesses
  • More productive workforce
  • Better-quality work
  • Better business reputation
  • Increased morale
  • Increased teamwork
  • Positive safety climate
  • Reduced hazards
  • Reduced family and co-worker suffering
  • Fewer work stoppages to conduct incident investigations

Since its official release on Jan. 1, 2017, thousands of construction foremen have already participated in the Foundations for Safety Leadership course, and the feedback has been very positive, as illustrated by these quotes from safety directors:

"When we have meetings, employees are more comfortable asking questions, and the foremen take the time to answer them."

"Shortly after the [FSL] training I saw a significant amount of it, supervisors trying to encourage employees to learn more and participate more. Not just following instructions, but participating in the whole process and developing employees."

For trainers, the high-quality research-based curriculum that includes a fully developed PowerPoint presentation, a comprehensive instructor teaching guide, classroom activities, and animated videos makes it easy for you to prepare and deliver the FSL training.

"I've been a safety and health trainer for over 33 years and I really enjoy teaching the FSL," another safety director said. "The developers put together a well-designed curriculum including a complete PowerPoint presentation and an excellent and easy-to-follow instructor guide. Students I've had in FSL classes have reported enjoying and benefiting from the class, and they say they are looking forward to using the skills when they get back to their job sites."

"During my introduction, I ask what is MISSING from the OSHA 30. Everyone's eyes light up when I say 'How to communicate effectively,' 'How to lead.' Everyone gets it. During yesterday's training, we had a fantastic conversation about three-way communication, and how to make it natural and not offensive, and how to ask clarifying questions as a way to achieve the same goal. Everybody got something out of it, including this experienced trainer."

The potential benefits of having your foremen and lead workers participate in the FSL training course greatly outweigh the small time commitment and minimal cost. Growing more safety leaders will help the folks you count on most learn how to communicate with their crews, give better recognition and feedback when their crew go above and beyond for safety, and, most importantly, improve safety climate and safety outcomes.

There are two ways to make sure your lead workers have the opportunity to participate in the FSL training:

1. The FSL was approved by OSHA as a 30-hour elective in January 2017. If your foremen are scheduled to take the OSHA 30-hour course, have them contact and ask the OSHA Authorized 30-hour instructor to select the FSL as one of the electives.

2. All of the FSL teaching materials can be downloaded free of charge from This allows you to have your own trainer or an OSHA Authorized 30-hour instructor conduct it as a stand-alone course at your job site, office, or other convenient location.

Dr. Linda M. Goldenhar received her Ph.D. in Public Health and began her career in occupational safety and health as a Research Psychologist at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). She is currently the Director of Research and Evaluation at CPWR: The Center for Construction Research and Training, where she is the lead investigator on project creating leadership training for frontline foremen and supervisors (Foundations for Safety Leadership, FSL) and also the lead on CPWR's Safety Climate efforts, including creating the Workbook and Rating Tool to Help you Strengthen Jobsite Safety Climate and the Safety Climate Assessment Tool (S-CAT). She has published more than 65 peer-reviewed publications, numerous articles in trade magazines, and written book chapters and manuals. She has presented her work at numerous national and international academic and construction-specific conferences.

Funding for the Foundations for Safety Leadership training course came from CPWR - The Center for Construction Research and Training, as part of their five-year cooperative agreement with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) under grant OH009762. If you want additional information about the course or have questions, you can contact Dr. Goldenhar at [email protected]. The contents of this article are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of NIOSH.

Posted on Nov 27, 2017

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