SELLING SAFETY – Know Your People

I am sitting on the balcony of my condo overlooking the lake, writing my fourth blog on the subject of “Selling Safety.”  Some have embraced the concept, while others have pushed it away. Whatever your position is, I’m ok with it. Writing is about sharing thoughts, ideas, and personal experiences.

“Writing is the framework of our communication.”

Denis Baker

Without writings, where does our intellect get challenged? The value of writing goes way beyond a book, paper, or blog. Writings generate thoughts, and questions, it allows people to try the new and improve the old. For these reasons, I will continue.

This week’s subject is vital to effectively selling safety, but it is something most safety professionals don’t do. Doing this will differentiate you from those who dictate safety. You need to know whom you are dealing with and what motivates them to adhere to policies and procedures. What motivates them to embrace the culture and make the right decisions? You need to understand what motivated the people you’ve worked with in the past and how to establish the same results with the present. One must know what characteristics to look for in the workforce to see if they will champion the cause or be against it. You need to understand what drives satisfaction in the workforce and what criteria is required to derive tremendous pleasure and enjoyment in their jobs. Just the same, you need to know what they see as satisfaction and frustration in you.

You must figure out what they relate as their best value, their priorities, and their overall desires and how that compares to your strategy and organizational values. If everything is important, nothing is important.  If you make everything a top priority, everything is at the same level. It’s about the relative difference between priorities and the value people perceive. So, if everything is important, it’s quite the same as saying nothing is important. If you are trying to attract everyone, you will attract no one.  Instead of talking to the world, speak to a specific set of individuals: people who are affected by the programs, policies, and procedures you implement or enforce.

“if everything is important, it’s quite the same as saying nothing is important.”

Denis Baker

To effectively sell safety, you must get into the mind, the heart, and the head of the workforce. You must know your workforce! How do you accomplish this?

Here are eight ways to get to know your workforce:

1.    BE VISIBLE IN THE FIELD – You have probably heard this from me before; “You can’t change a culture or get buy-in from behind a desk.” Get in the field, be on the floor, and be visible to the workforce. Spend time talking with them, asking questions, and listening to their answers and concerns. When you are visible, you can connect, build a relationship, and create trust. That leads to respect and influence.

2.    SHARE THE WHY – Don’t just tell them they need to do something. Tell them “why” it needs to happen. By doing this, it gives them a bigger picture of what we do. When done effectively, buy-in occurs.

3.    LET THEM CHOOSE THE HOW – This isn’t always the case. Lockout/Tagout, Confined space, and other situations must have step by step procedures. However, there are times when the worker can choose how they accomplish a task safely. Let them do it! Safety people should not be control freaks!

4.    SHOW YOUR CONFIDENCE AND TRUST – Eventually, we will have to trust the workforce to make the right decisions. I encourage you to set the expectation and show them you believe they will make the right decisions. When we do this, we create confidence, and that confidence is crucial to them feeling comfortable in performing their job safely.

5.    ENCOURAGE THEM TO SOLVE THEIR PROBLEMS – When I am in the field and see potential safety issues, I approach the worker from a coaching perspective. I accomplish this by asking open-ended questions to get them to identify and solve the problems I see. When they get it, I compliment them and let them know you have faith they will identify and solve their problems going forward. Never leave without a handshake and commitment.

6.    HOLD THEM ACCOUNTABLE – This doesn’t mean disciplinary action is always the answer. However, I hold people accountable for their words and commitments. It’s a two-way street.

7.    PROVIDE CONSTRUCTIVE FEEDBACK – As we hold people responsible for their actions and responsibilities, we must also realize there is always an opportunity for constructive feedback. I don’t people always ask for feedback, but I think most of us want and need feedback to improve.

8.    ACKNOWLEDGE ON THE SPOT – A few seconds of guanine one-on-one acknowledgment and recognition will go a long way in selling safety! Let people know you appreciate them meeting and exceeding expectations.

“Selling is something we do for our clients – not to our clients”

Zig Ziglar

Selling safety is about knowing your workforce. By knowing your workforce, you understand what value to expect in a safety culture. By following these eight ways, you are not only getting to know the workforce and them getting to know, but you are also getting to know the individual, and that helps SELL SAFETY!

Denis is an experienced Safety Professional with multi-industry experience. He is also an Executive Director at the John Maxwell Group, a certified leadership coach, trainer, keynote speaker, and DISC Behavior Consultant. He is a passionate person of influence committed to teaching and communicating practical principles and relevant influencing techniques to change employee behaviors and ultimately reduce and eliminate injuries.  His unique passionate and emotionally driven style resonates with many, creating a passionate desire to become an effective leader.  

You can contact Denis at for information on coaching, leadership, team and culture change, DISC Behavioral consulting or to be an inspirational speaker at your next event.

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1 thought on “SELLING SAFETY – Know Your People

  1. Good stuff, Dennis.


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