While many industries and organizations have reduced recordable incidents in recent years, others have plateaued and are not sure what to do. We see many senior leaders champion "zero" as a goal, yet some secretly question their ability to achieve it, shrouded in comments such as "accidents are going to happen."

In order to create true organizational transformation—the kind that leads to zero harm and zero incidents—leaders must engage the hearts and minds of others. This kind of motivation is not something that can be accomplished with the right words or strategy—it requires a very personal commitment that starts with who the leader is and what he or she really values. This paper draws on the thought leadership developed by DEKRA Insight legacy company BST.

Leading to Zero

What a leader can do to support the organizations push to zero is observable and identifiable. Leaders need to develop their capabilities around a set of best practices specifically designed to create a strong and sustainable safety culture. These leadership best practices are distilled from decades for research and practice into safety improvement. They provide concrete ways leaders can ensure that their personal commitment to safety becomes embedded in the fabric of their organization. The leadership best practices for driving the organization to zero are:

  1. Vision

Leaders who have made an emotional commitment to safety develop a clear picture of the future state of safety in their organization and articulate that picture in a compelling way. The essence of a vision for safety is being able to " see" what the future desirable state looks like. How is it different from the way things are today? What kinds of things will people do and say that they don't today? What decisions will be made differently, and what assumptions underlie those decisions? If you were able to change your culture today, what would you see tomorrow that would be different? The effective safety leader needs to be able to see these things vividly and to describe them in compelling terms. What makes the description of the vision compelling? In part, it's the ability of the leader to describe it plausibly, with enthusiasm and excitement. It also comes from the personal credibility of the leader.

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