Safety leadership is a crucial ingredient to creating a true zero-injury culture at jobsites or on the plant floor, but becoming an effective safety leader is about much more than knowing and enforcing the rules.

“The key to being a safety leader is that safety enters the decision-making process every single time,” says Donald R. Groover, a construction industry consultant and vice president of Ojai, Calif.-based Behavioral Science Technology, a performance solutions company. “To be a true safety leader, there has to be an emotional commitment, because safety really does come from the heart. It is about caring for people.”

At the Annual Construction Safety Conference held last year in Rosemont, Ill., Groover outlined best practices that true safety leaders should follow, including:

Credibility. The leader has to be considered credible to other people in the organization.

Action-oriented. The leader must be proactive rather than reactive in addressing safety issues.

Feedback. “Feedback is really about accurate information about performance, and so that can be positive or negative,” Groover says.

Recognition “Recognition is individual praise, and it's very common that it's in public,” he says. “It also can be in the form of promotions, giving people special opportunities because they demonstrated that they can be relied on in the area of safety.”

Accountability. “When I've explained to you what I need from you and I know you're capable, and you don't do it, that's when I hold you accountable,” Groover says.

Visionary. “A person that talks in visionary terms talks about what is it that they're looking for that's going to move the organization to zero injuries,” Groover says. “So for example, they talk about, ‘When I walk out on the plant floor, here's what I'd like to see: I'd like to see good housekeeping. I'd like to see people talking to each other. I'd like to see people smiling and interested in their work.’ So they would be talking around something that people could visualize.”

Communication. The leader should be a great communicator and encourage honest and complete information about safety, even if the information is unfavorable. The leader should also keep people informed about the big picture in safety.

Collaboration. The leader works well with other people, promoting cooperation and collaboration in safety.