Research conducted in 2003 by Comcare, the national OHS authority in Australia, indicates that an improvement in OHS and injury management is dependent upon senior management and a top down approach that is both informed, and extends beyond base level regulatory requirements. It maintains this is the way forward for smart and productive industry. Over the past decade, there have been enormous inroads in the area of OHS and injury and illness management. In short, it is now regarded as a critical aspect of productive and effective organisation and HR management and relations. Productive industry equals safe industry.
What then are the main features of a best practice model and how can these be adopted in your industry or business? How does one move beyond the boardroom and managerial rhetoric and develop an action template for improving safety and safety leadership?
Comcare identifies a leadership safety best practice model that has five main components.
- Systems review and improvement
- Accountability measures
- Executive information
The first component is commitment from senior management. As stated above, this must clearly move beyond base level regulatory requirements into a mode of managerial practice that actively engenders commitment across a broad scale.
Systems Review and Improvement
Pivotal to this component is the notion of “leading by example.” Management systems are in fact encouraged to enhance “prevention, notification of unsafe practices, early intervention, and safe and sustainable RTW of injured employees.”
Personal and organizational accountability needs to be woven into the work environment. Management performance outcomes, review and improvement processes, reporting requirements are all a part of these.
Develop and instigate ongoing education of OHS and health and injury information to managers and leaders. This alerts leaders to the constantly evolving safety leadership approaches that are requisite upon Australian business and industry and top-level staff in the second millennium.
Incentives in relation to OHS and safety leadership are to be encouraged and tend to signal those organisations that invest in, “and derive a sense of pride from their OHS management performance.”
In addition to these 5 components outlined in the Comcare research, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland has listed a number of safety leadership behaviours that have been adopted as a key component in the drive for excellence. These are:
- carry out risk assessments
- carry out formal incident investigations
- carry out formal inspections of the workplace
- plan and deliver toolbox talks
- consult with workers on safety issues and resolve them
- challenge unsafe behaviours when ever encountered – never accept unsafe acts
- make site visits where workers are spoken to directly about safety
- recognise and reward workers’ safe behaviours
- monitor contractor activities
- always lead by example
- consistently demonstrate that safety is a key business priority by never compromising safety. 
In summary, safety leadership is an intrinsic aspect of safety in the workplace. Drug and alcohol testing invariably forms a part of this approach, particularly in view of various legislative and regulatory outlines and issues such as unsafe behaviour, risk assessment and the ongoing demonstration of safety as a key business priority that can never be compromised. But even where legislative and regulatory requirements do not operate as a baseline, drug and alcohol testing may indeed be appropriate in order to ensure ongoing quality safety in your industry or business.
CMM Technology understands the need for an excellence approach to safety leadership. If you require quality testing products as part of your safety strategy, telephone CMM Technology on 08 9204 2500.
 Safe and Sound: A discussion paper on safety leadership in government workplaces. Commonwealth of Australia, 2004. Prepared by Comcare on behalf of The National Occupational Health and Safety and Compensation Council.
 Toolkit on Safety Leadership. Workplace Health and Safety Queensland. Department of Justice and Attorney General. State Government of Queensland.