Safety Improvement Opportunities: Influence, Implement, Accept Wins and Losses

Continuous improvement is always on my mind when working within the role of a Safety Professional. How can we be better today? What process can we improve which will reduce risk and bring us more into compliance? Why do people behave in a certain way conducting a work task? Is it a systems based failure?

I know a decent amount about safety as a professional who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in occupational safety and in the profession for over 3 years. Yet, I wouldn’t consider myself the subject matter expert in all things safety.

Through my interactions with associates, I learn about new processes. I get to figure out how a work task is conducted and how it plays an important role to ensure a product’s quality. I have a keen eye to find hazardous situations which employees may be exposed to, however, it is always easier to have an open conversation with an employee and ask if they have any safety concerns on the job. 

Quick Fix vs Safety Project

I may not be able to implement something right then and there to address their concerns, but I am definitely able to add their concern to a proactive tracking document. Quick fixes are always a win. If something can be easily changed within a work system to make the process smoother, those are wonderful wins for safety. 

Some safety concerns are not always such easy wins and need to be placed on a tracker document for when resources can become available to change a process. Sometimes, it may be decided the company is willing to accept a certain risk and the concern is halted. 

Influencing: Extremely Important Soft Skill for the Safety Professional

Why is the influencing so important for the safety professional?

From relationship interactions I have seen from individuals within leadership roles, I am understanding how it plays into making a positive safety culture a reality. I understand there will naturally be resistance to any type of culture change or change which results from an improvement project.  

Using influence skills to gain leadership buy-in is what drives the next step in maintaining improvement. Even when leadership has been influenced and understands the importance, there is still a factor of resource availability or true safety commitment.

Leading Initiatives 

Building relationships with individuals I work with is extremely important to me. In doing so, I like to listen to their feedback, input and thoughts on what can be done better. Influencing relationships is what makes a continuous improvement change successful.

There are some tips which I like to keep in mind to ensure my mind is in a positive place when working with others. These soft skills are what I have learned out in the field working directly with others. 

Influencing Relationships

  1. Create Rapport – if individuals like and trust you, they are more likely to listen to you
  2. Listen
  3. Ask the Right Questions
  4. Be Aware of Body Language – mirror their body language 
  5. Sell the Benefits
  6. Be Relaxed
  7. Invest Your Time – it takes time to develop an awareness and empathy of their struggles


Accepting The Answers Key Stakeholders Give 

Making team decisions takes time and sometimes patience. Culture and decisions may move slowly, depending on the resources and the level of commitment from key stakeholders. Sometimes you have to wait until the following year for the next capital expenses are approved. Sometimes an idea may be decided it does not make sense for the facility to do or they do not want to do it. 

Being a safety professional is hard work sometimes – especially when you may be told no. No one likes being told no – and ensuring I pick my battles is always something I look at. I want to have a positive team and be an easy individual to work with. Being a team player is extremely important quality. I want to do my part to be a  value to the company, however, respecting the decision of a team always gives priority. 

Learning on the Job

I am learning the people aspect on the job. Looking at regulations and what is required is something I am competent in figuring out. When I find out something is out of compliance, my natural instinct is to bring it up and begin advocating on a game plan to change the situation. 

In my experience so far, I have been told no in situations where compliance is at stake. For me to be a highly passionate safety professional and told from management the change cannot be initiated in a way to ensure a facility is in compliance I’ve learned that all I can do is accept what is being asked of me. No company is likely 100% perfect in all matters compliance. I was not formally taught in school how to handle situations which may come up like that. My colleagues in the safety field have told me documentation is all I can do.


Whether a change opportunity was identified proactively by talking with an employee, in an inspection, or reactively by an incident; a continuous improvement opportunity was identified. Understanding the leadership team’s expectations and their level of buy-in will aid in knowing when to push for change, wait for them to make the next move on available resources, or to not pick the battle and accept the team finds the risk to be tolerable. 

Influencing relationships within the leadership team is critical to have their support to close out the quick-fix safety issues and work together on a plan of action to tackle the larger scale safety hazards. Overall, it is extremely important to understand change may move slow. Understanding the leadership team i.e. what they value, how long it takes to change processes, what is their level of commitment; takes time and open communication. 

I plan to discuss on a future post the influence skill set and how it ties into the safety professional ‘selling safety’ to the company and its employees. 

Thank you for reading and for your support.

Until next post, 

Krystal Sibert GSP Blog Signature

Works Cited

  1. Buckby, Emma. “7 Tips to Develop your Influencing Skills.” Communicaid. Communicaid May 24, 2016.