Frontline leadership

By NZISM Secretary


Kia ora koutou to all members and supporters of NZISM.

Aotearoa New Zealand boasts a stunning landscape, but underneath its beauty lies a harsh reality: preventable workplace injuries and illnesses cost our nation billions annually.(1) Fostering a positive health and safety culture is paramount and at the heart of this, I believe, lies frontline leadership development.
Frontline leaders – supervisors, team leads, and project managers – are the direct link between policy and practice. They may not always manage people but they are familiar with the work and are able to influence the behaviours and attitudes of those with whom they interact.

Frontline leaders are best placed to model safe behaviours and when leaders consistently prioritise safety, it sets the tone for the team. A visible and honest commitment to safe practices encourages clear, open communication as well as better risk reporting, and by actively involving workers in decision-making and hazard identification, frontline leaders foster a sense of ownership and accountability. This can then encourage greater engagement in processes and, eventually, better outcomes from the place where the work is happening.

Investing in the development of these frontline managers is essential and equipping them with the necessary skills and knowledge should be viewed as a strategic investment. In my opinion, effective development programmes should focus on:
  • Safety leadership training which can build awareness of the leader's role in safety culture, foster communication skills for influencing behaviour, and provide or enhance skills for risk assessment and intervention.
  • Equipping leaders with data analysis skills can encourage them to identify trends, understand specific risks within their teams, and tailor their localised proactive interventions accordingly.
  • Pairing good, experienced leaders with newer ones to support knowledge sharing and provision of ongoing support.
Investing in frontline leadership development is about creating a healthy workplace. When workers feel valued, empowered, and safe, they are more engaged, productive, and less likely to experience injuries or illnesses. This translates into reduced costs, improved morale, and a more sustainable organisation.

So, the question I ask you is, how is your organisation developing your frontline leaders?
Are there plans in place for 2024 that support their growth to enable them not only to be good leaders, but to promote and support health and safety?... Questions perhaps to consider when we look at our 2024 objectives.

If you are reading this before Wed 28 February 12:30pm, why not get the ball rolling by signing up to Chris Peace's webinar on 'Core OHS Competencies in Line Managers'

Ngā mihi

Robyn Bennett
NZISM President

If you wish to contact me, please do so by email at

(1) References:
State of a Thriving Nation - Business Leaders Health and Safety Forum (2023)
Work-related Health - WorkSafe New Zealand (2024)