Getting Supervisors to "Sell" Safety

“What we have here is a failure to communicate”

In “Cool Hand Luke,” the chain gang warden (Strother Martin) kicked Luke (Paul Newman) down a hill saying, “What we have here is a failure to communicate.”

That sentiment echoes in my ears during every safety audit and training seminar I have conducted in almost every state in the USA. Whether from management to labor or vice versa, the story in the same: No one seems to listen — so what’s the use? “The use” is simple— if we don’t listen to each other, we do so at our peril and we all pay the price.

Paying the price
  • A shift supervisor tells a man near a lithograph line to wear his safety glasses — for the third time this week.
  • In a steel mill, a shift manager tells a woman to tie up her hair and tuck it under her hard hat — again.
  • Conversely, a crew is busy placing six locks on machinery prior to maintenance in compliance with lockout/tagout, only to be told to “hurry up.”
  • A laborer in the roll shop at the hot strip suggests that they use 7/8 inch cable instead of 3/4 inch, which frays more frequently; the boss tells him to shut up and that the thinner cable is just fine because they’ve been doing it that way for years. The result is that this worker never suggests anything again and we lose a valuable asset — a pair of eyes.
There are no “routine” days
Every scenario is true and has been addressed in our “Safety for Supervisors” program. I end every seminar by asking one simple question: “If everyone worked at safety like you do, would it be a better place?” The intent is to train supervisors to sell the idea of safety compliance without using a hammer on someone’s hardhat. Assuming that everyone in a class has had formal training in the pertinent OSHA standards i.e. hazard communications, lockout/ tagout, PPE etc., the important concepts to share with supervisors are perspective and accountability.


1 comment (Add your own)

1. jlwcgbefh wrote:
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Thu, August 25, 2011 @ 10:30 AM

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