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Safety Leadership: Getting Started

Posted by Mark G. Gardner on August 24, 2018 in the category Training

20180824-Safety Leadership - Getting Started

For several months my team has been asking me to write an ebook on Safety Leadership.  At first, this would seem to be an easy task. After all, we’ve created dozens of leadership curricula during the past three decades. Thousands of leaders from front-line supervisors to CEOs of some of the largest transportation companies in the world have completed our leadership courses. And we're proud to say, they’ve gotten better safety results by implementing the concepts and principles we teach.

It would seem easy then, to simply draw from that vast library of content and cobble together a short explanation of what it means to be a safety leader. As it turns out, it’s a much more challenging process than anyone can imagine. In essence, I’ve been asked to compress thousands of pages of information into a Cliffs Notes deliverable. I finally concluded I can’t do it.  That is, I can’t do it and the same time do the subject justice. It simply too big.

I’ve come up with a solution. One that allows me to share these ideas with those who are interested in learning more about safety and how to achieve better results. I plan to write a series of blogs on Safety Leadership. Diving into the series won’t be for the faint of heart. It’s a big subject and there’s a lot to learn.  If you don’t care about safety, you should stop reading right now. But, if you’d like to learn how to reduce accident and injury frequency by 30, 40 or even 50 percent, you’ve come to the right place.

I hope you’ll come back week after week to read each new installment. And if I only have one reader on the planet who puts these ideas to work and saves one life, it will be worth it to me. We exist to make the world a safer place. It’s my personal mission and if I can inspire you to apply these principles to your fleet I will have achieved my mission.

Understanding Safety & Risk

So, if you’re ready to join the party let’s get down to business. This is a series on Safety Leadership. What exactly does that mean?  We’d better begin with a few definitions. We’ll start with the word safety.

"Safety is defined as freedom from risk. And risk is defined as the potential to suffer harm or loss."

So, when you put those two definitions together you find that safety is freedom from the potential to suffer harm or loss. That’s a mouthful. And, I know it sounds crazy, but it also means we can never be safe. Risk is all around us. In fact, you’re at risk right now just reading this. Bummer, huh?

We’ll Never Be 100% Safe

There was a time when it was safe to sit in your grade school classroom. Other than an occasional beating by Sister Elizabeth, I felt safe in third grade. That’s not true anymore. Our children are at risk of an active shooter coming in with blazing guns.

The same is true of outdoor country concerts in Las Vegas, or Baptist churches in Texas. You’re never free from risk even when you’re sitting in your living room. And when you put trucks on the road, your drivers face even greater risk. Your professional drivers have to share the road with amateurs who have very little training, almost no understanding of defensive driving and who routinely make very poor choices like texting while driving.

So, the next time you hear someone bragging about their safe operation, feel free to challenge them. The fact is, we can never be fully safe.  But that doesn’t mean we have to give up. We can work to become safer. We can work to:

  1. Avoid risk
  2. Eliminate risk
  3. Reduce risk

I’d like to ask you to re-frame your understanding of safety as an exercise in risk management.

Safety Leadership

That brings us to leadership. There’s no shortage of definitions for the word leader or what leadership means and there are thousands of books on how to be a better leader. We like to keep it simple and say a leader is someone who inspires others to embrace a common goal and work together to achieve that goal. Of course, there’s a lot more to being a leader and over the course of this series we’ll cover many of the related subjects.  But for now, let’s agree that leaders inspire others to pursue a common goal.

Safety leaders inspire their followers to pursue safety. And, since we defined safety as freedom from risk, Safety Leaders inspire their followers to:

  1. Avoid risk
  2. Eliminate risk
  3. Reduce risk

When safety leaders are successful, the accidents, injuries, incidents and near misses disappear.

So we’re just getting started. I hope you’ll come back next week for a little more. In the meantime, investigate how you can create an a team of Safety Leaders with your driver trainers using LLLC Certification.

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