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“You don’t do things right once in a while, you do them right all the time.”

- Vince Lombardi

Good leaders are liked by their subordinates because they maintain a relative peacefulness and calmness—people are happy to work for these leaders. Great leaders, however, understand that in order to motivate a group of individuals to achieve a common set of goals, they must lead by example and never compromise on their core beliefs. Great leaders foster a culture of excellence, where everyone not only believes in the organization’s core values, but practices them in every facet of their work—and sometimes personal—lives. 

So, how does great leadership relate to construction safety?  Quite simply, it is the foundation upon which all world-class safety cultures are built. Without a leader who truly believes that every single injury and incident is preventable and expresses that heartfelt belief through their actions, day in and day out, a culture cannot be built where every employee believes that he or she will return home safely in the same—or better—condition than which they arrived on the jobsite that morning. Without a leader who refuses to compromise on making safety the core value upon which all decisions are based—be it with the men and women out in the field, corporate management or the clients who pay the bills—the systems and processes that make up a company’s safety program and the actions of those on the jobsite become poisoned and ineffective. 

Leadership commitment means being a president or CEO who not only believes that every single injury and incident is preventable, but who works tirelessly to reinforce that belief among all employees. When a leader has accepted that unavoidable incidents exist, they also accept the perceived inevitability that one of their employees will be injured while on the job. This indicates that their company culture is flawed; while they may be committed to a zero-incident jobsite,  they don’t truly believe in it. If that way of thinking works its way through the company and becomes accepted by employees and management; the results can be fatal. 

Great leaders believe and reinforce that safety isn’t a priority but a core value of the company. Priorities change; core values do not.

Uncompromising leadership manifests itself in many ways:
  • expecting employees to stop work when faced with a potentially hazardous situation and rewarding them for protecting themselves and others; 
  • pulling employees from a jobsite if they believe that the owner or general contractor has placed delivery dates over the safety of their people; and
  • walking the jobsite in full PPE so that employees see that even the CEO must follow the policies and procedures that he/she has helped create. 
Leadership is critical when transforming your safety program from good to world-class. Without the commitment of senior leadership to achieving a zero-incident jobsite and the belief that every injury and incident is preventable, jobsite conditions and attitudes will not change, and a truly world-class safety program cannot evolve. 

Next week: Cultural Transformation—Establishing Safety as the Core Value in Every Employee.

This article is the first of a four-part series on achieving world-class safety written by ABC’s Director of Safety, Chris Williams. To learn more about ABC’s safety efforts, visit