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  • Writer's pictureLeverage Safety

Bridging The Gap

Updated: Jan 30

Safety Leaders are key to moving safety performance from good to great.

Where ever your current safety performance level sits and what you would consider 'excellent' safety performance, there's a gap. Excellence will come if you bridge that cam, but first, you must identify the elements creating that gap.

Many management personnel will first make the assumption that a lack of training is their key issue and will adopt a strategy of increased training - a resource-intensive strategy. More often than not, though, training only has a limited impact; it doesn't fix all the issues.

An interesting perspective is provided by W. Edwards Deming, who stated, "if you can't describe what you're doing as a process, you don't know what you're doing". Safety leaders can easily identify whether their workers can safely and effectively undertake their designated task or role by taking the time to discuss the process and understand it. If there's a gap, Safety Leaders can much more easily focus their efforts on closing those gaps.

Some other common human performance elements that result in suboptimal performance are listed below.


If the workplace is poorly designed, or if the workflow doesn't facilitate good ergonomics and safety of the worker, then the worker will instantly believe that their employer doesn't care about them. It doesn't matter how much training you do with the worker if they have to climb onto a handrail to open a valve or there are never correct tools to get the job done - what does management expect? Workers will do what they need to to keep getting paid. Fix the conditions, and morale and 'culture' will significantly improve.


Specifically looking at safety performance, knowledge about identifying and treating hazards is critical. Safety Leaders need to understand that this type of knowledge isn't inherent in everyone's 'knowledge'. Yes, people are great at their job and always deliver quality work, but they generally work in an environment that isn't bound just by their job; they work in hazardous environments where there are many workers doing different things. Increasing the collective knowledge and sharing information from all types of workers about 'their' hazards to others will reap the rewards in as much as people are more aware and able to identify hazards that they are not familiar with and also how to take the necessary precautions to manage the risk. Do not assume everyone has the equal ability to identify hazards - we don't know what we don't know.


Safety Leaders can recognize that their team members need more than just knowledge of a skill to do it safely and efficiently. Workers may have the knowledge to know how to do it but not the skills. Consider reverse parking; we know how to park, we know how to use mirrors, use a steering wheel, use the brake, and put a car into the correct gear - but it's not that simple, is it? Working individually with workers to understand where their skill execution gaps are and improving them will have great benefits in the long term for safety performance and also for efficiency.


Another key aspect of getting from good to great is implementing systematic accountability. Having leaders in your team who want others to do the job and dish out punishment for poor performance is very dangerous. Leaders must be held accountable for their teams and continually coach, monitor, encourage, and reinforce standards and expectations for their teams. One way to do this is to measure and monitor individual performance. Setting sound metrics for this can ensure that the workers stay on track and understand their roles and responsibilities and the expected results. One thing to consider is to train your supervisors, not your workers.


Leaders will assume or assert that there's a poor safety culture within their organization and that this results in poor performance. It may be true, but just because it's easy to say, it doesn't mean a thing unless they can clearly define what elements of the workplace are causing the attitudes and values of the workforce to be misaligned with those expected in a high safety culture workplace. The underlying issues create a poor safety culture; attitudes result from the environment, not the other way around. Workers don't come into their workplace wanting to be bad employees who don't care about safety, but if the environment permits it, what should the leader expect the outcome to be?

Metrics Organizations with a clear vision of success can more easily identify what's important. By having a vision, they're more able to easily identify what contributes to the vision that they're seeking.

A key challenge for leaders is how we measure what we want; when we align to industry measurements (TRIR, LTIF, etc.), we often miss what's important to our own organization; essentially, you're measuring something that doesn't contribute to your own improvement. Measuring the wrong metrics prompts workers to also focus on helping the organization meet metrics that don't mean anything to them, resulting in decreased morale and 'culture'.

By focusing on metrics that guide the organization towards measuring and monitoring their own contributors to success.

Consultants / Safety Specialists

Consultants are somewhat of a counselor for management. By asking the right questions and being able to draw out what leaders see as important within the organization, by helping to create the vision, consultants can help move the leader's mindset from the traditional problem-solving to goal-setting and to be able to more clearly diagnose what the true causes of their performance problems are. A by-product of diagnosing is that the leaders will have to engage with their workforce, which will increase the perception that the workforce has of their leaders - it'll demonstrate that they care.

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