This is a continuation of our blog series on Safety Leadership. In the last article, we explained the power of norms and how they can be used to create a safety culture. Norms are often initiated and maintained by the leaders. This includes both formal and informal leaders. This series of blogs is titled Safety Leadership, but sometimes leaders also have managerial duties to perform. So, let’s review what a manager does.
At this point in our blog series, you’ve learned a lot about leadership. There’s no shortage of definitions for the word leader or what leadership mean. Hopefully, though, we’re on the same page when we say a leader is someone who inspires others to embrace a common goal and work together to achieve that goal. Leaders take ownership of an organization’s future and get everyone excited to follow them there.
While the two work well together, leadership and management are different things. By definition, managers control, direct and count. Managers don’t necessarily need followers. As a safety manager, you’re responsible for managing lots of things. You manage the schedules of your drivers. You manage the driver qualification files. You manage your budget and expenses. And, it’s your job to look for things that could hurt your drivers or employees. As a manager, you eliminate unsafe conditions by taking action the moment you see them. So, making sure the yard is free of debris, your vehicles are properly maintained and you’re in compliance with OSHA regulations are just some of the management tasks you perform.
Being an effective manager is essential to having a safe and efficient operation. Otherwise, things could get out of place, daily staffing might suffer, and unsafe conditions could go unnoticed or uncorrected. And that’s not all. The management responsibilities that have the biggest impact on safety performance include hiring the right people and making sure that they get the education and training they need to perform safely.
One of the best opportunities you have as a safety manager for creating a culture of safety is by hiring only people who already have good attitudes about safety. Hiring the right people makes your job easier and your safety results better. It’s important to select applicants who are naturally risk-averse, who follow the rules and who are a good fit for the job.
It’s also important to complete the background checks and make sure your qualification files are in order. If they aren’t, there could be big problems. We live in a litigious world. Attorneys even advertise on billboards and TV, trolling for victims they can represent. Those hungry attorneys pose a risk. When accidents happen, regardless of who’s at fault, claims and lawsuits follow. And, the first place the plaintiffs look for dirt is in your drivers’ files. They’re looking for anything that might be missing so they can claim you didn’t do your due diligence when the driver was first hired. And, when they find something missing, it turns a small claim into a costly mess. The management part of being a safety leader includes managing driver qualification (DQ) files.
Attention to detail is needed, but so is a systematic process. Earlier, we discussed why people have accidents and the reasons apply to this situation, too. People make mistakes. Don’t rely solely on people to build and maintain your DQ files. Put a process in place for on-boarding new drivers and gathering all of the necessary documents. Don’t rely on paper files or allow human errors. Get a modern software system like the A-Suite and you can sleep at night, knowing you have near perfect files.
It’s also your job as the safety manager to make sure your drivers get the knowledge and skills needed to do the job safely. Education is the term we use to describe knowledge-based learning. Knowledge consists of concepts and principles committed to memory. For a professional driver, there’s quite a bit to learn:
AvatarFleet’s comprehensive training programs cover the subjects and more. As a manager, you need to make sure that everyone not only attends every session, but also that they understand the material. You need instructional courses that include quizzes, tests and actual evaluations to document subject matter mastery.
Education is just a piece of it. Drivers also need skills. Skills are defined as “How to do things.” Skills have a physical component to them. Skills are something you do, or an action you take. To learn a new skill, you have to physically do it and practice it. You can’t learn skills by watching a video.
AvatarFleet has a skills-based training programs for professional driver, including LLLC Driver Certification. It begins with practice on a closed course to help drivers master maneuvering techniques in a controlled environment. Once they demonstrate mastery over hand - eye coordination, spatial relationships and vehicle dynamics, they go out on the road, under the direction of a LLLC Certified Instructor.
Driver education and training goes on all the time. Non-stop. How do you manage it to make sure it’s done right? It begins with good trainers, both in the classroom and out on the road. AvatarFleet offers the LLLC Instructor Certification Process. It has strict entrance criteria, education in adult learning and coaching and physical skills evaluations for both driving and coaching.
Your instructors are the key to your success. They should be committed to safety. They set the tone with newly-hired drivers and establish your expectations and they’re the gatekeeper. They decide if somebody’s good enough to go at it alone. If the instructor makes a mistake and lets a weak driver slip through, it can cause you real problems.
Safety leadership is primarily about creating a safety culture, but as we’ve just explored, there are several managerial tasks necessary to achieve better safety results. When you effectively utilize both leadership and management, you can have a powerful impact on your safety results.
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