Supervisors and team leaders play a vital role in the health, safety and welfare of the employees in their charge; and in the event of an injury in how quickly it is managed and the person returns to work. These Work Health & Safety (WHS) tasks are as important as production, costs and other business issues and have a real impact on the bottom line and the morale of any organisation.
Supervisors’ Legal Work Health & Safety Responsibilities
According to SafeWork NSW Supervisors even if they are not officially recognised as such are responsible for carrying out of work in a safe manner in the workplace. These duties include:
Making decisions about health and safety that may affect work activities or other people
Ensuring legal requirements regarding health and safety are met
Actioning safety reports and carrying out workplace inspections
Ensuring safe work method statements are completed
Ensuring safe work practices
Conducting inductions and regular safety briefings
Participating in incident investigations
Leading by example and promoting health and safety at every opportunity.
Supervisors Are At The Coalface
Supervisors are perfectly placed to lead by example as is their legal responsibility.
Supervisors are at the coalface and so are more in touch with operations and therefore are well placed to keep an eye out for hazards and risky practices. This means Supervisors are also perfectly placed to lead by example as is their legal responsibility.
Professor Steve Linton’s research at Orebro University underlines the importance of Supervisors. In his 2014 presentation on ‘New Interventions for Pain for the Worker and the Workplace’ he posed the question, “Are Supervisors Key?” and what Prof Linton listed was:
Can impact on most of the workplace variables.
Have direct, daily, contact with the employee.
Have a responsibility.
Can observe and prov.ide feedback
Often in the best position to know the situation and do something about it!
10 Reasons Why Your Supervisors Need Training And Support
Supervisors need training and support to lead effectively; and this is something Prof Linton referred to in his research. They need to be able manage tasks, communicate and provide feedback, improve employee performance. build and develop a team, resolve conflict, and solve problems. However there are 10 things that can get in the way of supervisors successfully fulfilling their duties because they:
Can tend to be promoted because they worked at a job the longest and/ or are good technically rather than having sound people management skills.
Are charged with getting the job done in line with company targets that sometimes is at odds with prevention and management of injury.
Play a particularly critical role in compliance when they may not be familiar or comfortable with organizational policies and with employment-related laws.
When under pressure and without support can react irrationally rather than professionally.
Are not necessarily well equipped to have difficult conversations with their team and can ignore budding problems.
Can neglect employees’ complaints that they might see as trite or the problem of the worker, and not a priority.
Can be implicit in under reporting issues or thwarting time lost that would negatively impact on bonuses.
Can be uncomfortable dealing with documentation and see it as a distraction compared to their real job of production.
Are critical in defining the workplace culture and the way a company does business.
Set the scene for how return to work proceeds in a workplace.
Training Your Supervisors Makes Good Business Sense
Some of the benefits of training your supervisors include enabling them to:
How do you ensure your Supervisors have the necessary skills to successfully manage their team?
Know their WHS responsibilities.
Be familiar with company policies and procedures and their role in implementing them.
Adhere to proper legal practices so their team can follow them as well.
Assist with developing and motivating their team.
Support their team to produce quality work.
Deliver on the link between training and company productivity/growth.
Have a better understanding of managing the challenges of individual workers.
Contribute to the company’s obligation that all employees always receive respectful and fair treatment.
Impact the protection of the rights of both the employer and the employee.
Feel empowered to provide feedback to contribute to continuous improvement.
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About the Author
Kerry Foster Kerry Foster graduated with a B. Social Work in 1980 and since 1995 has been the Director of Active OHS a WorkCover and Comcare Accredited Workplace Rehabilitation Provider. Active OHS is a Occupational Rehabilitation Centre in Sydney NSW that also offers WHS Training and Consulting, Ergonomic and Medico-legal Assessments as well as Outsourced RTW Co-ordinators.