Workplace Injury: How Important is Your Supervisor?


Because of their day-to-day presence and close relationship with workers, supervisors have a significant influence on workplace safety performance.

Supervisors who encourage safe working practices, prioritise safety, provide tools and safety equipment, respond to safety concerns and reward for safe behaviour, see a decreased level of injury in their workplaces.

Their influence is so strong that they’re possibly more important than formal health and safety policies and procedures in championing safe behaviour. In this article, we review Canadian research that surveyed 2,390 workers, to investigate the link between supervisors and managing hazards to reduce workplace injuries.

The Role of the Supervisor in Hazardous Workplaces

There’s an established link between hazardous work and work-related injuries. The level of protection provided to your workforce is affected by

  • policies and procedures
  • hazard awareness
  • empowerment to participate in injury prevention and voice concerns.

A supervisor who’s aware of hazards in the workplace and who understands safety risks can play a critical role in creating a safe work environment. Supervisors who are actively committed to safety, who proactively identify problems before they arise, and clearly and regularly communicate with their workers, can have a meaningful impact on injury prevention.

The research surveyed 2,390 respondents, half were male, one third were under 35 years of age and most were employed in businesses with between 20 and 499 employees. Across this group,

  • 17.8% had a recorded workplace injury or illness
  • 11.9% of respondents reported an injury requiring time off work or medical attention
  • 23.7% reported having inadequate policies and procedures vulnerability
  • 8.6% reported a supervisor who was not aware of the hazards involved in the jobs their workers performed
  • 13.2% reported a supervisor who does not do everything that is reasonable to protect workers from being injured at work.

See our article, The Critical Role of a Supervisor.

Supervisor’s Hazard Awareness Skills are Very Important

The occurrence of a workplace injury was more common in workplaces where reported supervisors weren’t aware of the hazards of the jobs their workers performed. Similarly, a higher level of injury occurred in workplaces where it was believed that the supervisor didn’t do everything they could to protect their workers.

Vulnerable workers were injured more frequently. 50.3% who had limited workplace safety policies and procedures and no supervisor support reported a physical injury in the preceding 12 months compared with just 10.3% of those with policies and procedures and a supportive supervisor.

Workers who lacked empowerment to participate in injury prevention and voice their concerns, and didn’t have a supportive supervisor, were more than four times less likely to report a work-related physical injury.

After taking into consideration age, gender, employment relationship, workplace size, and industry, the risk of physical injury was as at least 3.5 times higher among those experiencing both OHS vulnerability and a lack of supervisor support.

The support of a direct supervisor has significantly more impact in reducing injury even in workplaces with policies and procedures, worker awareness, and worker empowerment. A supervisor who’s committed to safety in protecting workers can help those who may not know about their rights or lack the power to speak up. This is especially important for workers who are new to their jobs or those with poor literacy and language deficiencies.

See our article, Can Construction Supervisors Recognise Workplace Hazards?

How Can You Support Your Supervisors?

Supporting supervisor’s in their roles and building their capacity is an important component of solutions to protect workers, especially in high risk workplaces where it’s challenging to remove hazards. Organisations need to:

  • Provide training interventions around supervisory leadership that emphasises safety in all activities and relationship management skills. Train to develop skills such as active listening, assertiveness, paraphrasing, reflecting, conflict analysis, coaching and mediation. Extend the supervisory role to advising, coaching and nurturing, and not simply disciplining.
  • Support supervisors to make the difficult decisions they do on a daily basis. Lead from the top where bullying, intimidation and disrespectful communications are not tolerated. Give them room to do their jobs, make mistakes, and learn.
  • Actively demonstrate that supervisors are highly valued members of the workforce who perform an essential function in managing workplace relationships.
  • Ensure supervisor job descriptions are comprehensive with clear expectations.
  • Ensure there are clear policies, procedures and systems.

See our article, Do Supervisor’s Leadership Behaviours Impact Safety?

How Can Tap into Safety Support Your Supervisors?

Well-trained employees who recognise workplace hazards when conducting high-risk work is a step forward to reduce workplace injuries. Couple this with supportive supervisors who are committed to safety and protecting workers, and you have a terrific marriage.

Tap into Safety‘s Integrated eLearning Platform supports supervisors in their efforts to keep their workforce safe. The platform offers interactive and engaging hazard perception training that can be delivered via smart devices and online to reduce risk. Real workplace photographic, panoramic examples are used to immerse the worker in their workplace. Well-designed, visually pleasing, interactive, mobile and online solutions that include gamification, not only engage the user but encourage problem-solving and knowledge retention with a proven effect on lowering workplace injuries.

The safety training courses have been designed to support workers with low literacy or minimal English language capabilities. Delivered in 15-minute courses, the training can also be accessed by contractors before they step foot on site. Access to the Tap into Safety Platform is available via a single URL that allows them to be easily integrated with your existing training system. The Tap into Safety Platform includes a substantial library of out of the box safety training courses, we can create custom courses for your organisation, host your videos and build customised inductions.

Microlearning Courses Specifically for Supervisors

On the Tap into Safety Platform, there’s a course category that is dedicated to improving the skills of leaders and managers. There are several courses that have been specifically developed to help your supervisors including:

  1. Active Listening
  2. Effective Communication
  3. Health & Safety Fundamentals
  4. Health & Wellbeing Fundamentals
  5. Leadership Skills
  6. Motivating Your Team
  7. Resolving Conflict
  8. The Role of the Supervisor
  9. The Role of a Civil Construction Supervisor
  10. The Role of a Housing Construction Supervisor

With our flexible pricing model, you have two options. Either use our pay per use ‘credits’ model, where you can purchase any number of credits at any time, that you can use within a 12-month period before they expire. For this arrangement, there are no set up fees or lock-in contract. Or you might like one of our annual unlimited use plans.

If you’d like to know more please contact us or click through to try a free online demo.

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