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How Build a Culture of Safety Leadership

Posted by Scott Rea on March 27, 2018 in the category Training

How to Build a Culture of Safety Leadership

An article by the Huffington Post claims that 98% of adults agree that texting and driving is a dangerous, but 49% of adults admit that they do it. How can people be this dumb when they know the potential consequences of their decision? It’s common that people get worked-up over accidents but are unable to recognize their own unsafe behavior. Your drivers don’t always recognize their bad behaviors that endanger themselves and others. That’s why safety leadership is vital to your organization.

Leaders Make All the Difference

Safety results are driven by your company culture. Your company culture comes from your cultural norms. Norms are the accepted way of behaving in a particular setting. For example, you throw your empty hot dog wrapper on the ground at stadium but would never throw an used envelope on the floor of a bank - these are societal norms. Norms at a company are put into place and maintained by the leaders. Everything you do or don’t do as the leader creates norms for your employees.

Managers and supervisors are in a unique role to carve out a safety leadership role for themselves. Employees will always care about your opinion because you’re their boss. Simply put, people do what their boss inspects (no, not expects). In other words, employees will spend time on tasks that they think their boss cares about. Therefore, leaders are directly responsible for safety results.

What is Safety Leadership?

Safety Leadership sets the standard for the expected safe behaviors. Your job is to set the company norms so that employees understand the exact right and wrong, or safe and unsafe, behaviors in their job. You need to lead by example. They need to hear you talking about them and see you doing them. Your drivers need the proper education and training so that they’ll behave in safe manner whether their on the road or in front of you in the yard. Creating a cultural norm about behavior starts with talking the talk and then walking the walk - here’s an example about setting high standards with pre-trip inspections:

  • Preach about the importance of pre-trip inspections through company messages
  • Provide training on how to conduct a proper pre-trip inspection
  • Show the drivers that you as the leader can conduct a flawless pre-trip inspection
  • Walk around the yard a few times a month to make sure everyone is doing them properly.

Leadership vs. Management

The “boss” of a transportation company is in a unique position to leverage safety leadership. Terminal managers and shift supervisors, as examples, interact with drivers on a regular basis. However, managers are not always leaders. There’s a big difference.

Managers deal with “things.” They control schedules, direct people to perform tasks, and count inventories. Leaders, on the other hand, deal with people. They inspire others to pursue shared goals. They influence the way others behave. Peter Drucker once wrote, “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”  You need to do both. “You’re not a leader if you turn around and no one is following you.”

Leadership is Accountability

Just remember - YOU decide:

  • Who controls how safe your operation is
  • Who you hire
  • How, and how well, they’re trained
  • What driver behaviors are measured

Left to their own devices, people will continue to think their driving behaviors are always safe. Safety leadership means you create new norms that your drivers follow. You hold others and yourself accountable for their own lives and the lives of others.


Use the A-Fleet as a tool to instill safe driving principles throughout your organization.

A-Fleet Clips

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