6 Qualities of a Health & Safety Leader

Health and Safety Leader


6 Qualities of an effective Health & Safety leader

A health and safety leader is the first person who ensures that workers do their job safely and promotes workplace health and safety.

[sdm_download id=”undefined” fancy=”0″ color=”green”]H&S professionals are the internal experts for H&S within their respective organizations. Safety experts, safety managers and OHS Specialists are some of the different titles held by these professionals.

A strong safety culture depends on their dedicated leadership and the most effective OHS professionals communicate with their executive teams and boards an understanding of the strategic context in which their role operates within the organization.

The following are qualities of a Health & Safety Leader in spearheading the fight for a safer work environment:

  1. Responds quickly and acts fast

How OHS professionals responds to employee safety issues, concerns and injuries dictates the outcome. They can respond by:

  • Seeking immediate medical attention when injury requires medical care
  • Filing a first report of injury or illness and other required documentation, such as statements, records from witnesses, etc.
  • Cooperating with Workers’ compensation
  • Welcoming the worker back when they resume employment
  • And most importantly, by preventing future issues / injuries.


  1. Understand that safety is about the people, not just rules and regulations

There are Health & Safety laws (such as The Occupational Health and Safety Act, Act 85 of 1993) that govern organizations to ensure adherence to good H&S practices. Rules, regulations and procedures form the backbone of every company’s safety programme. However, a great safety leader knows that the real goal is to prevent injury by developing safe work habits, such as, recognizing the human factors that contribute to incidents. Without the adherence of the employees, a safety programme fails. Workers can learn to not just follow the rules, but live them.


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  1. Builds a culture of commitment

Does the current culture encourage safety success and how do they define it? Leaders are responsible for changing the culture of an organization. What has a predictive relationship to the culture of an organization is the leadership’s transformational style, amongst other actions and practices. It is essential that strengths and weaknesses are evaluated in safety leadership behaviours (are the OHS professionals modelling desired behaviours in the field?), because workers will not judge only based on words (slogans, messages, etc.) that promote safety in the workplace. Leadership is required to empower workers to exercise good judgement and ask the right questions to get people to think and apply initiative to safety improvement.


  1. Communicate and encourage open dialogue

An H&S leader understands that it’s necessary to discuss a new programme with employees first before rolling it out and to see to how best it can align with their needs. Constant communication will strengthen the already existing safety programmes and ensure that safety is always top of mind among the workforce.

They also use feedback as a tool for improvement.


  1. Holds accountability

In the workplace, accountability exists as a condition of being and employees are held accountable for behaviours over which they have control. A great OHS professional will know that accountability is not about blame nor punishment. As a high-accountability leader, ownership is important and so is holding others accountable for their actions. They will proactively uncover problems, speak up about concerns, diagnose the cause and find solutions. The purpose of accountability is to create a culture where leaders accept responsibilities and every employee also feels ownerships for results and holds others accountable.


  1. Keeps up to date with the industry

Not only do they need to always stay informed on current safety regulations, but their professional learning curve constantly needs to be built. A good leader will also possess a drive for continuous personal improvement, especially on how to deal effectively, they can do this by reading H&S publications, watching educational webinars, attending relevant conferences and by finding a suitable coach.


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