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Building an Effective Safety Leadership Team for EHS Management

By Addison Moore
Published: November 17, 2023
Key Takeaways

Assembling an effective safety leadership team will set the tone for safety in your workplace.

Caption: Team meeting Source: imagesourcecurated / Envato Elements

Safety is a non-negotiable priority, no matter your industry. Ensuring the well-being of your workforce and protecting your work environment is not only a moral imperative but also a legal requirement.

Creating a truly safe and compliant workplace requires more than just a safety program and a few solid policies, however. To really achieve that goal, you will also need to build an effective safety leadership team tasked with Environmental, Health, and Safety (EHS) management.

In this post, we go over the steps and strategies that will help you create a strong safety leadership team that can drive your organization toward a culture of safety excellence.


The Importance of Safety Leadership

Safety leadership refers to the actions and attitudes of leaders within an organization. This behavior then influences the safety culture and performance of the organization as a whole. Effective safety leadership, in other words, sets the tone for the entire workforce, demonstrating a commitment to safety and the importance of following required protocols.

A well-structured safety leadership team plays a pivotal role in promoting a safe and compliant workplace by:

  • Creating a Safety Culture: Fostering a culture where safety is ingrained in the organization's values and day-to-day operations.
  • Enhancing Compliance: Ensuring that the organization complies with all relevant safety regulations and standards.
  • Preventing Incidents: Taking a proactive approach to accident prevention, ultimately reducing injuries, environmental damage, and associated costs.
  • Boosting Worker Morale: Workers are more likely to feel motivated and valued when they see leaders prioritize their safety and well-being.
  • Improving Productivity: A safe workplace is a more efficient one, with fewer disruptions caused by accidents and incidents.

Building Your Safety Leadership Team

Creating a safety leadership team means carefully selecting individuals who possess the risk skills and mindset. Here are the major steps you can take to put together a strong safety team and help them succeed.

1. Identify Key Roles

The safety leadership team includes three main roles:

  • Safety Director or Manager: The person who oversees the entire EHS program.
  • Departmental Safety Representatives: Leaders from each department who liaise with the safety manager.
  • Safety Committee Members: A group of employees from various levels and departments who participate in safety discussions and decision-making.

2. Define Team Objectives

Clearly outline the team's goals and objectives, emphasizing the importance of safety, compliance, and injury prevention.

3. Select Team Members

Look for individuals with expertise in safety regulations, risk assessment, and safety management.

Go beyond credentials and experience by assessing "soft skills" and leadership qualities as well. Choose team members who can communicate effectively and collaborate productively with others.

(Learn more in Face-to-Face Safety: The Right Way to Build a Safety Culture)

4. Develop a Safety Leadership Structure

Create an organizational chart that defines reporting relationships and responsibilities. Make sure that everyone has a completely understanding of their role in promoting safety.

5. Training and Development

Provide team members with training and continuous education on safety regulations and best practices. Encourage them to stay up to date with the latest industry developments.


6. Encourage Reporting

Promote a reporting culture where employees, contractors, and team members can report safety concerns, incidents, or near misses without fear of reprisal.

7. Set Clear Expectations

Define performance expectations and key performance indicators (KPIs) related to safety for each team member.

8. Hold Regular Meetings

Schedule regular team meetings to discuss safety issues, initiatives, and progress.

Use these meetings to collaborate and make decisions regarding safety policies and procedures.

9. Data-Driven Decision-Making

Gather, analyze, and use data to make informed decisions about which issues to prioritize and which safety initiatives to implement.

Encourage the use of safety software and technology to improve data collection and analysis, such as auditing platforms and contractor management software.

10. Accountability

Hold team members accountable for meeting their safety responsibilities.

Recognize and reward positive safety behaviors.

11. Communication

Promote transparent and open communication within the team and with the entire workforce.

Encourage the sharing of feedback, reporting of potential areas, and suggestions for areas of improvement.

12. Continuous Improvement

Create a culture of continuous improvement, where the safety leadership team is dedicated to making ongoing enhancements to safety processes and protocols.

13. Lead by Example

All team members should demonstrate a strong commitment to safety through personal behavior and actions.

Encourage them to be visible and approachable to workers regarding safety concerns.

14. Empower Your Entire Workforce

Encourage all workers to take responsibility for safety and contribute ideas for improvement.

Provide opportunities for employee involvement in safety initiatives.

(Learn more in What's the Difference Between Safety Leadership and Safety Management?)

Challenges and Solutions

Building an effective safety leadership team may encounter challenges, such as resistance to change, lack of resources, or skepticism about the ROI of safety investments. Addressing these challenges will take a multipronged approach, including:

  • Change management strategies to address resistance and ensure a smooth transition to a safety-focused culture.
  • Resource allocation to support the safety leadership team with realistic timeframes, adequate budgets, and leading technology.
  • Demonstrating ROI by using data and case studies to show that investing in safety can lead to reduced incidents, lower costs, and enhanced productivity.

Closing Remarks

A robust safety leadership team is imperative to successful EHS management. It not only ensures compliance with safety regulations but also fosters a culture of safety excellence throughout the organization.

By carefully selecting team members, setting clear objectives, and promoting a data-driven, communicative, and accountable safety culture, organizations can create a safer, more productive, and compliant workplace. Building an effective safety leadership team is an investment in the well-being of your workforce and the long-term success of your organization.


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