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Features Health and Safety Sawmilling
Elevating safety leadership

April 4, 2024  By Patrick McDonald

Emphasize the collective pursuit of safety excellence to instill ownership and enthusiasm. Photo credit: ljubaphoto via Getty Images.

Safety leadership in sawmills isn’t just for top bosses—it’s crucial for everyone, especially safety support members. Let’s explore key strategies for safety support members to lead effectively from the middle, focusing on mentorship, understanding the business, and embracing transformational leadership principles.

Harnessing the power of mentorship

  • I challenge you to find a mentor. Seek out an experienced mentor who understands safety and sawmill operations. Learn from their guidance to navigate challenges.
  • It’s very important to understand the operating side of the business. Just remember that if you can improve safety with considerations to quality and production, you will be a safety rockstar!

Understanding the business

  • Dive deep into understanding the company and mill goals, culture, and strategies.
  • Align safety initiatives with these objectives to gain support and reinforce safety as a core value.

Embracing transformational leadership

  • Shift from a compliance-focused approach to one that inspires and motivates.
  • Embody behaviors like leading by example, setting clear visions, and fostering innovation to cultivate a culture of safety excellence.

Fostering relationships and emotional commitment

  • Always start your conversations off on common ground. Engage in conversations that resonate with an individual’s values and aspirations.
  • Show empathy, actively listen, and build mutual respect to foster emotional commitment to safety.

Developing intrinsic motivation and shared vision

  • Involve frontline workers in safety planning to create a shared vision. 
  • I always try to find someone that has a passion for what I’m working on, and then I ask them to help me. They usually appreciate the involvement and perhaps they will be more engaged in future safety initiatives.
  • Emphasize the collective pursuit of safety excellence to instill ownership and enthusiasm.

Driving enthusiasm and optimism

Be a beacon of positivity, celebrating successes and reframing setbacks as opportunities for growth. Sometimes we forget to celebrate our wins. It’s important that we stop sometimes and celebrate when we can. Foster a culture of optimism to inspire resilience and continuous improvement.

In the dynamic world of sawmill operations, safety leadership thrives when nurtured from within by dedicated safety support members. By implementing these practical strategies, safety leaders can inspire, motivate, and influence individuals at all levels of the organization to prioritize safety as a fundamental value. Through authentic relationships, intrinsic motivation, and unwavering enthusiasm, safety leaders can pave the way for a culture where safety isn’t just a priority, but a shared conviction upheld by all.

Patrick McDonald is a safety specialist at Canfor, with over 15 years of experience working as a safety professional in Canada. He specializes in developing safety solutions in the industrial manufacturing industry.


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