Leadership and worker participation

Leadership and workers participation. Conductor leading a concert

Strong, effective and visible leadership is vital to good workplace safety and health. And, in turn, good safety and health is essential to the success of a business.

Protecting employees from accidents and ill health is not only a legal and ethical duty — it’s a sign of a business that is likely to grow and thrive.

Reducing risk from the top down

An enterprise’s leaders — senior management, directors and/or the board — are in a position to prevent accidents and ill health in the workplace. They can do this by:

  • Committing to and communicating an effective OSH management strategy
  • Developing robust safety and health management systems
  • Monitoring the performance of those systems
  • Setting a good example by following all safety procedures at all times
  • Motivating staff to participate in ensuring good safety and health

Paying the price for poor leadership

Ineffective or non-existent leadership on OSH can result in accidents or even fatalities as well as poor mental and physical health among workers. It can damage a company’s reputation. Poor leadership can, in fact, have significant financial costs as a result of, for example, sick days, wasted time and compensation payments.

Good OSH leadership, on the other hand:

  • Prevents accidents and illness
  • Increases productivity and efficiency
  • Improves employee morale
  • Helps the bussiness to win new contracts and attract high-quality employees

Taking the lead on safety and health

There are some simple steps you can take to make sure that your organisation benefits from good OSH leadership. Here are some practical tips, based on a guide developed by the British Health and Safety Executive:

  • Carry out regular risk assessments and act on the results
  • Always consider the safety and health implications of introducing new members of staff, processes and working methods
  • Visible leadership is effective leadership. Make sure leaders make regular visits to the ‘shop floor’ of your organisation to talk to employees about OSH problems and solutions
  • Demonstrate commitment by making sure that safety and health issues are always on the agenda at board meetings
  • Provide safety and health training to all leaders, promoting a greater awareness of the value of OSH

Working together — getting employees involved

One of the keys to good OSH leadership is getting workers involved. Employers have a legal duty to consult employees on safety and health issues. But there are benefits to going beyond the minimum requirements. OSH management will be more likely to succeed if it encourages the active participation of workers and sets up a dialogue between employees and management.

In 2012, EU-OSHA ran a two-year campaign on this topic, called Healthy Workplaces Campaign 2012–2013 Working Together for Risk Prevention.

This campaign concluded with a benchmarking event where campaign partners exchanged examples of good practice, with workshops on topics such as ‘Leadership training’ and ‘The safety and health culture of an organisation’. Read a summary of the event.