The Wisdom of John Wooden


MSHA is drawing upon the wisdom of John Wooden, one of the greatest coaches of all time, to communicate the importance of developing a safety culture.

Wooden once said he would "rather lead with a banner than follow with a whip." To build a total safety culture, leaders must give employees feedback through praise in order to build a safety culture. Corrective action is certainly needed at times to correct at risk behavior. However a pat on the back is often times just as powerful.

A safety culture is one where safety is integrated into the operations daily activities and never compromised. Most unsafe acts result from poor safety attitudes, not from a lack of knowledge.

To encourage safety oriented attitudes consider adopting the following safety culture practices:

  • Actively involve your workforce and have them commit to producing safely.
  • Report near misses.
  • Empower all employees to recognize and report unsafe conditions
  • Remove unsafe conditions.
  • Remind coworkers not to perform unsafe acts.
  • Give positive feedback when working safely.
  • Utilize mentoring programs.

Many companies are using behavior-based safety programs and job-observation programs. Some companies reward with positive feedback when a job is performed in a safe manner.

For example some companies may look at the following instances:

  • Was the employee wearing PPE?   
  • Were they using the appropriate tools?
  • Were proper lifting techniques used?

Consider adopting a behavior based safety approach and incorporating it into your existing safety program for enhancing your safety culture.