“Who is your hero?”

Mmmm… answers may vary from film fantasy superhero figures to olympic champion athletes to famous leaders through history. We need heroes in our lives, and we look to them for inspiration.

Health and safety heroes in the workplace are no different. Your actions can inspire and motivate others, steering them towards making safer decisions, reducing risk, reducing the accident and absence statistics and ultimately making your workplace a safer and healthier place to work.

At work, everyone needs someone to look up to, someone to guide them, and someone to reinforce the good that they are doing. That someone needs to be you! Here’s how you can be the hero your team so desperately needs:

1. Qualifications

Whether your journey into the world of health and safety began with safety responsibilities slowly sneaking up on you or your decision on this career path arose at birth, the starting point in being taken seriously in your role will always be qualifications. The journey from zero to hero requires effort. Understand the law and how it applies to your business. Join trade bodies for examples of good practice in your industry and build your sector experience. Learn from the mistakes of other companies by news updates on prosecutions. Be taken seriously by joining the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health and maintaining up to date CPD.

2. Lead by example

Inspiration comes in the form of daily perspiration as your team will look to you to be a role model. No matter your role and no matter your level, you should be prepared to follow the rules you are setting. If staff should not cross the yard without wearing a high visibility vest or if staff should not answer calls whilst in the warehouse, you should follow suit. Take deliberate health and safety infringements seriously by following disciplinary procedures where staff actions present a risk to themselves or others, to ensure that there isn’t a culture of turning a blind eye.

3. Reward Good Practice

Whilst disciplining bad practice is important, so too is rewarding examples of good practice. Set a vision for the safety standard your company is striving for, and staff will follow your leadership if they feel rewarded. Whether by a verbal recognition or going further with a ‘Health and Safety Hero’ award system, it is important for staff to receive recognition for their efforts and to drive further motivation amongst them and their team. Heroes make people feel good about the good they are doing.

4. Involve and engage the team

Once you set your vision, make sure you consult with your team on the most practical ways to achieve this vision. Ask for their opinion on safety improvements that could be made and engage your team in how they will be able to contribute to the vision you’ve set. Make sure they understand their own role in attaining those goals you’ve set, and make sure they understand what they need to uniquely do to help the team to succeed in the vision.

5. Learn from failure

Accidents are going to happen and people are going to make mistakes, both individually and collectively. Create an environment that encourages accident and incident reporting. That’s what a hero would do! Rather than making an example of a failure, make it an opportunity for the team to learn. Move forward from mistakes by making safety improvements to the way work is conducted. Chances are those mistakes won’t repeat themselves as a result.

Think of yourself as the hero that your team needs, and act like the hero that your team needs. But, at the same time, make them the heroes in your success as a team, because at the end of the day, they truly are the heroes . . . you’ve just inspired and motivated them to be up for the task!