What Is A Safety Champion?


Discover the vital role of a Safety Champion in shifting an organization's culture from reactive to proactive safety, leveraging key strategies such as positive reinforcement, effective communication, and the right delegation for creating an enduring safety mindset.

Creating a Culture of Safety

A safety culture is a collective mindset that permeates your organization. It's the way everyone thinks about, talks about, and behaves around safety. 

In most work environments, safety culture is reactive: workers are approached to discuss safety issues after a safety incident, to warn them about bad behavior. They’re told what not to do, and they associate "safety" with "I did something wrong. I'm in trouble."

The job of a Safety Champion is to make their team "WANT" to be safe, not feel like they "HAVE" to be safe. A Safety Champion identifies the key safety priorities in their work environment and develops a system for rewarding safe behaviors. A great Champion is a great coach, who helps their team learn from their mistakes and develop good habits. A Safety Champion encourages their team to associate "safety" with "I did something right. I'm going home healthy."

This behavior change from reactive to proactive won't happen overnight. The key to changing your safety culture is giving consistent rewards to encourage safe behaviors, and proper coaching to correct unsafe behaviors. If your team makes a disciplined commitment to best safety practices, you can build a strong safety culture that lasts even as new workers come and go.

Major 🔑s for Success:

  • Proactive vs. reactive: the Safety Champion’s goal is to shift the safety culture from negative (punishment for violation) to positive (reward for success)

  • Mindset: the challenge is to encourage team members to “WANT” to be safe, not feel like they “HAVE” to be safe 

Regional vs. Local Champions

The Safety Champion is one of the most important leadership roles in an industrial environment. This role is best performed by a site leader with a strong understanding of a worker's perspective on the floor. A Safety Champion could be a general manager, a floor supervisor, or an EHS advisor–it doesn't matter what their job title is. What matters most is having the respect of your associates. A Safety Champion should be approachable and able to communicate effectively with all team members of the team.

In a large organization, a Safety Champion may be responsible for health & safety at a very large work site, or at multiple work sites. You can’t be in two places at once, so it may be impossible to stay actively engaged in all the details of day-to-day operations. In that case, the job of a Safety Champion is to delegate certain responsibilities to a local Champion who can execute the organization's safety initiatives. Each local Safety Champion acts as a link between the floor associates and the centralized safety leadership. 

Whether you are a supervisor on the floor everyday, or you are supervising sites remotely, a Safety Champion needs visibility into what’s happening in the work environment. That’s where Voxel comes in.

Major 🔑s for Success:

  • Bottom-up perspective: as a safety leader, you must have a strong understanding of your team’s experiences on the floor.

  • Approachability: you need the respect of your associates so they’re receptive to feedback and coaching, and they need to feel comfortable coming to you with their concerns.

  • Delegate responsibility: you can’t be everywhere at once, so you may need ‘local’ Champions who can implement the organization’s key safety priorities.