Resources All About You Podcasts

All About You: Harness team spirit to energize safety

Richard Hawk

EDITOR’S NOTE: Motivating employees to work safely is part of the safety professional’s job. But who motivates the motivator? In this monthly column, veteran safety pro and professional speaker Richard Hawk offers his entertaining brand of wisdom to inspire safety pros to perform at their best.

Some sports fans go over the top to root for their favorite team. “Fan” is a shortened version of the word “fanatic,” which means “marked by excessive enthusiasm and often intense uncritical devotion.”

During my “Create a Vibrant Safety Culture” talk, I display a few slides featuring sports fans from around the world, adorned in paint or wearing costumes to support their team.

I recently gave a talk in Missouri so, of course, I showed some Kansas City Chiefs fans. They included ChiefsAholic, a fan who wears a head-to-toe wolf costume. He has allegedly worn the costume to hide his identity from police. He’s believed to have robbed multiple banks, in part, to purchase tickets for Chiefs’ home and away games!

Why do people pull for their favorite team so strongly? When we feel like we’re part of something bigger than ourselves, it feels good and stirs us to action. As safety pros, we can tap into those feelings to help others (and ourselves) get pumped up about safety and health. Here are a few practical ways to energize your work team and boost your spirit.

Latch on to something special

During my recent stint as an in-the-field safety pro, I was part of a group assigned to demolish the New Rad Waste Building. At first, we called ourselves the “NRW Gang,” but that expanded to other fun nicknames and sayings. (“We will leave no gunk [contamination] behind.”) Five other main groups were at the site, but we felt special. We excelled as a team, regularly helping each other and going out of our way to keep our team members safe.

So, latch onto something symbolic that makes your team unique. You can do this for a project your organization is starting or a specific group challenge. Even a shirt design symbolizing your work team will increase a sense of connection among your group.

Remember that your efforts matter

Las Vegas sportsbooks and other sports-betting organizations usually give NFL home teams an automatic three-point advantage. Although the home-team players’ familiarity with the field plays into those points, so does the positive energy and cheering of the fans.

For safety pros, personal interaction, written communication and regularly reminding employees that their efforts make a difference can be powerful morale boosters.

Send yourself the same messages, too. Your efforts as a safety pro and team member may not always be measurable, but they are meaningful.

Example: A carpenter approached me once and told me I saved his eye. After attending one of my meetings in which I used a peeled, hard-boiled egg and a stone to demonstrate what happens if a pebble thrown by a weed trimmer hits your eye, he dusted off his safety glasses and wore them while trimming his lawn. Something hard, perhaps a pebble, hit his glasses squarely in front of his eye. That was nearly 35 years ago, yet when I think of it, it still energizes me to help my “safety pro team.”

Keep the goalpost in mind

Enjoying the journey is vital to living a positive life, but keeping the goals of your team – and yourself – in mind will help stir your enthusiasm. And be sure to celebrate your wins and learn from your losses. During my talk last week, after witnessing several awards being given to organizations that had gone thousands of hours and many years without a lost-time incident, I shared with the audience how wonderful it is to be part of a movement that’s come so far in eliminating harm and suffering.

Then, I asserted that we’ll make a huge difference as a “team” in the years to come. Our challenges are more complex (mental health, for example), but if we work together as a team, we’ll make the world safer.

This article represents the views of the author and should not be considered a National Safety Council endorsement.

Richard Hawk helps leaders inspire employees to care more about their safety and health so “nobody gets hurt.” He also has a long history of success getting safety leaders to increase their influence and make safety fun. For more than 35 years, Richard’s safety keynotes, training sessions, books and “Safety Stuff” e-zine have made a positive difference in the safety and health field. Learn more about how Richard can improve your employees’ safety performance at

Podcast page

Subscribe to the podcast feed in iTunes

Post a comment to this article

Safety+Health welcomes comments that promote respectful dialogue. Please stay on topic. Comments that contain personal attacks, profanity or abusive language – or those aggressively promoting products or services – will be removed. We reserve the right to determine which comments violate our comment policy. (Anonymous comments are welcome; merely skip the “name” field in the comment box. An email address is required but will not be included with your comment.)