Safety coaching in the workplace is often confused with safety training, safety consulting, safety advising, safety management, or safety mentoring and it requires specific skills to be effective.
Here are the Top 5 Myths About Safety Coaching in the Workplace
- Safety coaching is just sharing expertise
- Safety coaching is fixing someone’s behavior
- Safety coaching is just asking questions
- Safety coaching doesn’t require any specific skills
- Safety coaching is only for senior leaders
Here is a Comparison of Safety Coaching in the Workplace With Other Types of Learning Methods
Types of Learning
To impart knowledge
To give a strategy for direction
Need for strategic direction
To tell how best to do something
Need for action steps
To implement processes and procedures
Need for leadership
To share experience
Need for perspective
To change one's risk perception
Being a trained observer
Need for change
What is Safety Coaching?
The term “coaching” originated in the mid-1800s and meant “to tutor or help prepare someone for an exam or contest.” Since then, coaching has evolved into one of the most effective learning tools we have. Today, coaching is no longer focused on teaching but has evolved into a creative process that helps people reach greater potential.
Fundamentally, safety coaching is a series of conversations that challenges beliefs and assumptions that offers alternative perspectives. Most people believe that reality exists “out there.” Coaching is based on the idea that reality is a way of seeing and interpreting the world. Thus, a desire to change to improve safety must come from the inside out. Human behavior is learned which means that all behaviors can be unlearned, and new behaviors learned in their place.
The need for coaching arises when the employee has a serious challenge which, in the context of safety, could be anything from not reporting incidents, inability to ensure compliance, at-risk behavior, reducing incident rates or the need to shift away from a blame culture. Most of these breakdowns have severe consequences and can be life-threatening. That is what makes safety coaching different from coaching a leader for financial performance or other business objectives. Precision matters in safety coaching because there is zero tolerance for errors in many high-reliability organizations.
Why Safety Training Alone is Not Sufficient to Create a Culture of Safety
Safety training is primarily a cognitive learning process based on information and reasoning. However, most of our decisions are not purely logical, and many times we act irrationally. Safety training may inspire people and change behavior momentarily, but later they may revert to old habits.