The Risk Management Tool Box Blog

Supervisors Role for HSE

Graham Marshall - Tuesday, April 30, 2013

It is a self-evident truth that Supervisors perform a vital role in the identification and control of hazards, and minimization of risk.

The supervisor's role is critical in showing "the public face" of the organisation; representing the organisation’s HSE values, HSE priorities and HSE expectations. 

And employees will typically  look to their supervisors’ actions to identify those behaviours and attitudes which are likely to be viewed favourably or otherwise by the organisation. 

As such, supervisor language and behaviour has a direct impact on employee HSE behaviour. 

From a risk management perspective, effective supervision requires time spent coaching employees in identifying, understanding and controlling hazards.

This approach to supervision not only educates employees in the how and why of hazard identification and management, but also demonstrates that it is the top priority for the organisation. 

Furthermore, direct feedback is one of the most effective tools that supervisors can use to improve employee HSE performance.

There are a broad variety of strategies that can and should be used to improve supervisor performance in promoting and reinforcing appropriate hazard management behaviour. 

From a personnel resourcing perspective, the following strategies may be beneficial:

   Maintain a low employee to supervisor ratio for teams where hazard management is a critical part of their function;

   Provide supervisors with training and coaching in understanding human error mechanisms and fatigue and time pressure issues. 

   Develop Procedures that support supervisors in implementing this knowledge;

   Encourage supervisors to provide feedback to planners in relation to actual vs. planned time for task completion, and build this feedback into future man-hour estimates;

   Provide supervisors with an opportunity to challenge or question plans and schedules; and

   Exercise caution when adding to the workload or responsibilities of supervisors. 

Research shows that, as their workload increases, supervisors spend less time engaged in one-on-one coaching with their employees. 

But this one-on-one coaching is precisely the most effective leadership tools used by supervisors, particularly in relation to promoting and encouraging hazard management behaviour.

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