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Module 5

Effective Use of Team Leaders

Team leaders, often referred to with other titles depending on the organisation, are integral to safety management and maintaining production schedules. They are your eyes and ears on the shop floor when you are not present. They are the people who notice incorrect behaviour in workers, the first to notice safety hazards, and are in regular contact with workers meaning they know when something is not right.

Team leaders provide you with situational awareness when you yourself are not able to be in the situation, which is why you need to be sure your team leaders are capable in identifying hazards and other issues at the same level as you.

Choosing effective team leaders

Before someone is promoted to a position of responsibility you need to ensure that they are not only competent but they have the drive to take on that role.

Team Leaders
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Team leaders can be your only connection to the shop floor so you must be confident in their skills. Will they be able to detect unsafe behaviour as well as you? Will they be able to gain the respect of your employees so that when things need to be done they will listen? Do they already have this respect? Will their current relationship with those on the shop floor interfere with the duties of being a team leader? These are some of the questions you need to ask yourself before promoting someone to a position of responsibility.

Team leaders need to demonstrate an aptitude for the task they will be supervising, as well as the critical communication skills necessary for anyone in a leadership role

'Having a good team working for you, having team leaders that are astute and recognise problems, they feel comfortable to raise things and for the team leaders their next asset in line would be obviously their people and die setters, and they're the guys that set up these tools and pieces of equipment, and they would be talking to the team leader all the time. Oh I've just put this in and it's not right or this could potentially happen here. So by them talking to the team leaders and the team leaders raising it to their supervisor and we reacting in the right way you, it's basically how you notice things.'

Qualities of a team leader

Some good qualities for a team leader to have include:

  • They know what they're talking about
  • Ambition to do the job and to learn
  • Strong leadership skills
  • Good rapport with other employees
  • Good communication skills
  • Monitoring safety performance through others

Team leaders are your eyes and ears on the shop floor. It is your job to use their knowledge of what is going on to your advantage. This means attempting to gain situational awareness of a situation you are not actually in. To do this you need to know what to ask and what to look for.

Firstly, you should encourage all team leaders to keep track of any safety hazards and report them to you when appropriate. If you ask them to solve the problem themselves ensure that you receive adequate feedback, because if you don't it may not get done. Keep a record of all of these issues and conversations.

You should ensure that both you and your team leaders are on the same page when it comes to discussing safety issues. If neither of you fully comprehend what the other is saying it can lead to poor planning, dysfunction, and safety hazards. If you do not fully comprehend what the team leader is describing then get them to point it out on the shop floor.

Lastly, team leaders can be useful for monitoring issues that you have previously identified, such as poor safety practices or potentially malfunctioning equipment. Explicitly ask your team leaders to keep an eye on these issues and remember to maintain good rapport with them.
Empowering team leaders

One method for getting the most out of team leaders is to empower them to act autonomously. When minor safety hazards can be solved immediately encourage them to do so, along with all other employees. This can be done by encouraging a sense of ownership and responsibility amongst employees, reminding them that they are an integral part of the organisation and they have power within their work area.

Giving team leaders responsibility for safety and the safety of others demonstrates that you have faith in their skills, which is likely to build rapport as well as safety benefits.