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5 Simple Steps for Efficient Safety Observation


A Proactive Safety Observation Strategy

In the realm of organizational safety, sustained excellence is not just about responding to incidents; it’s about proactively managing risks. This requires a shift from a traditional enforcement model to a more engaging, coaching-based approach. Observations play a critical role in this transformation. Instead of merely policing for rule violations, observations can be a powerful tool to reinforce positive safety behaviors and understand potential risks. The following steps provide a structured, effective way to conduct these observations, whether between peers or from supervisor to worker.


Step 1: Announce Your Presence

The first step is about transparency. Informing the person you’re observing about your presence is crucial. This approach sets a positive tone, builds trust, and focuses on habit formation rather than rule enforcement. Announcing your observation ensures the individual doesn’t feel ambushed, fostering an atmosphere of mutual respect and openness.


Step 2: Watch the Task

Once the individual is aware of the observation, the next step is to carefully watch their job task. The key questions to consider are whether the employee can perform the task safely and if there are any concerning elements. This phase emphasizes identifying positive safety behaviors and proactively spotting potential risks, rather than focusing on rule compliance.


Step 3: Ask Insightful Questions

Understanding why certain actions are taken is a critical component of effective safety observations. Asking questions about why a worker chose a particular method or if they feel safe doing it provides valuable insights. This inquiry helps both the observer and the worker understand the reasoning behind specific safety behaviors, enhancing awareness of both safe practices and potential risks.


Step 4: Reinforce Positive Behaviors

Observations are an ideal opportunity to reinforce the positive safety actions an individual takes. Highlighting and encouraging safe practices helps shift the focus from the absence of incidents to proactive risk management. This positive reinforcement strengthens the perception that safety is about conscious, deliberate actions, not just luck.


Step 5: Express Concern Appropriately

When risks are identified, the way feedback is presented is crucial. Expressing concern, rather than labeling actions as unsafe, fosters a more constructive dialogue. This approach builds trust and opens up a conversation to understand and mitigate risks, making it a fundamental aspect of leadership safety coaching and behavior-based safety processes.


The above steps will support a mindset shift in how safety is approached in organizations. By focusing on positive reinforcement, engaging dialogue, and proactive risk identification, safety observations contribute to a culture where safety is a shared responsibility. This approach leads to not only a safer workplace but also one where employees feel valued and engaged in their own safety and that of their colleagues.

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