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Step 5: Be a role model

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How to send the right message

Telling people to work in a safe and healthy way isn’t all there is to being a supervisor. Sometimes people want to take shortcuts because they think it will help them get the job done faster. Sometimes they’re tired, or they're having a bad day. There will be days when you’re tired or having a bad day, too. But you need to be a role model for safety at all times.

As a supervisor you need to follow the workplace safety procedures, wear your personal protective equipment and stay safe. If you don’t do those things, others will think it’s okay to not follow the workplace safety procedures. People are watching you and learning from what you do. How you supervise the work, the way you think about the work and talk about it, can affect the safety of the people you supervise.

You want to help the workers choose the safe path every time. You can help them by being easy to talk to and answering their questions. But the best thing you can do is to “practice what you preach”. That means always complying with the OHSA and following the healthy and safe work practices in your workplace. It means explaining how to work safely and correcting unsafe work situations whenever you see them.

If you walk by a worker who isn't following the correct procedure or using the right safety gear and you do nothing about it, what message are you sending to that worker and everyone else?

The message you send if you ignore health and safety infractions is that safety doesn’t really matter. That’s not the message you want to send and it's not the message the OHSA expects you to send.

As we saw earlier, the OHSA supports a coordinated approach to workplace health and safety. To be a part of this, you have to understand your legal obligations and put what you know into action. So does everyone else in the workplace. That's how the Internal Responsibility System works.

  • If the employer knows about a hazard and doesn't take steps to eliminate or control it, as well as make sure the workers are told about it and how to deal with it, that employer is not doing what the law requires.
  • If the supervisor knows about a hazard and doesn't explain to the workers how to deal with it, that supervisor is not doing what the law requires.
  • If the worker knows about a hazard and doesn't report it to the supervisor or the employer, that worker is not doing what the law requires.
  • The Internal Responsibility System is all about people cooperating to recognize, assess and control hazards in the workplace and to evaluate hazard controls. Every supervisor has a key role to play in that system.

Remember when you were starting out on a job and you felt a bit overwhelmed by all the things you didn’t know? Remember that one person – a supervisor or a co-worker – who took the time to show you things?

We all have someone we can think of who helped us settle into a job. They gave us useful tips. They kept us out of harm’s way until we learned what we needed to know for ourselves. Well, now it’s your turn to give back. You are the supervisor. You are the person with the know-how and experience. If you don’t feel that you know enough to carry out your health and safety duties as a supervisor, it's important that you talk to your employer and make sure you get the information you need.

Keep an eye on the new worker and everyone else you supervise. Even those who don’t ask you questions are counting on you to show them the right way to do things. By always showing your commitment to health and safety, the people you supervise will follow your example. Prevention starts here, but it doesn't end here.

Step 5 quiz

Here is the final true-or-false quiz.

True or false?

  1. How you think and talk about the work you are supervising can affect the safety of the people you supervise.
  2. Good supervisors are good role models. Good role models practice what they preach by following the workplace health and safety policies and procedures.
  3. Workers who ask a lot of questions can take up a lot of your time, so you should keep talking to them to a minimum.

Answers to Step 5 quiz

  1. True.
  2. True.
  3. False. You should be considered easy to talk to by the people you supervise.

The end

We hope this training has been useful, and that you will use the material that’s been provided with it. Remember that when it comes to health and safety on the job, you can make a difference.

Updated: March 29, 2022
Published: March 29, 2022