Not everyone is cut out to be a leader even if they study the skills and experience needed.
That being said, there are certain skills and attributes that ‘good’ leaders have and this can be critical to a successful health and safety policy in the workplace.
This week in the Project Skills Solutions blog we are going to have a look at what soft skills are and why they are important to health and safety.
What are soft skills?
Soft skills can often be called ‘people skills’.
While you have hard skills which are job specific, for example knowing how to operate a forklift in a warehouse or knowing what to do when you are working at heights, soft skills are different.
They are harder to define but generally involve things such as communication skills, empathy towards others, listening and decision making. This just scratches the surface of what soft skills are but it shows that these skills are just as important when it comes to health and safety particularly if you want to create a positive safety culture at work.
What soft skills are needed for health & safety management?
If health and safety is to be successful in the workplace then everyone needs to be involved in the process. This means that directors, managers and workers all need to be pulling in the same direction.
Soft skills play a vital role in this from a manager’s perspective. If you have good communication and listening skills then you will be able to take on board what employees are concerned about in regards to safety at work and you will also be able to communicate health and safety changes or guidance in an effective way.
There has to be a positive culture for this to work. Employees need to feel comfortable and confident about expressing health and safety concerns, reporting incidents and following procedures while managers are required to communicate these and listen to feedback.
Encouraging employee involvement in Health and Safety
If an employee doesn’t feel involved in the process or isn’t comfortable with expressing an opinion then health and safety is at risk. The HSE carried out a study into soft skills and improving worker safety a number of years ago and found that the more involved everyone was in the process the better health and safety was in that workplace.
Even though hard skills are essential in regards to health and safety particularly when it comes to knowing procedures and how to handle certain situations that may require technical knowledge and expertise, the advantages of strong soft skills can’t be ignored.
A culture of fear where employees are reprimanded or feel uncomfortable about expressing their views on health and safety will actually do more to harm safe working practices than encourage them.
Good safety managers are those that have soft skills in abundance and can build a rapport with workers to ensure that they feel confident around health and safety. Not only does this improve health and safety but it contributes to a better organisation overall.