Leadership small business


Leading safety in small business – getting started

This information is for small business – this means those with less than 20 workers – they will often be single director companies and family businesses. Leaders of these businesses are likely to be part of the day-to-day work and workplace.

If you are just starting out, or you want to make sure you are compliant with work health and safety laws as your first step, we suggest you start with the resources on this page.

If you are confident you are already compliant, but you want to improve your health and safety leadership and organisational culture, we suggest you start with leading safety in small business – principles of good leadership.


There are a number of information packs, toolkits and short videos to help you know what you need to do, and how to do it.

Most of these have been developed by individual Safe Work Australia Members, but they are included here because the information is generally relevant throughout Australia.

For information relating specifically to your State, Territory or work health and safety jurisdiction, please see the links below.

Safety leadership

The Safety Leadership model was developed by Workplace Health and Safety Queensland but is applicable everywhere. It includes a range of tools and resources available from the Workplace Health and Safety Queensland website.

Seven steps for small business

This video introduces the ‘seven step’ approach. By following these seven simple steps, you can create a positive work health and safety culture that contributes to the safety of your business.
For more information, see

Safety management toolkit

This all-in-one toolkit provides steps and resources to give your business a good start to a safer, healthier and more successful business.

Serious about safe business

This information pack has checklists, guides and resources to help you manage work health and safety. It has been adopted by both SafeWork NSW, and Work Health and Safety Queensland.

Safety for small business

For small businesses in Western Australia, WorkSafe WA has information, tools, resources and a quiz to help you assess and manage your work health and safety.

Workplace safety for small business

For small businesses in Victoria, WorkSafe’s small business homepage has a range of information on health and safety.

Why is good safety leadership important to small business?

Small business owners have a vital role to play when it comes to leading safety. When workers know their employer places high importance on work health and safety they are more likely to be motivated to follow safety procedures and raise safety issues.

If you support and encourage positive workplace health and safety practices, over time you will improve the culture in your business. A positive culture can help small business owners improve workplace health and safety, and avoid costly incidents and injuries, minimise productivity disruptions and reduce overheads.

principles of good leadership

Figure: Leadership Principles (JPEG 117kb)

Committed to safety

Be clear that you are serious about good work health and safety by your personal and business practices. You can clearly show your commitment to safety by spending the time, money and resources needed to provide a safe and healthy working environment.

Business practices

  • Have a clear safety policy and make it visible to staff and visitors.
  • Include your staff in planning ways to raise the importance of safety in your business; have a safety suggestion box.
  • Understand the safety risks in your business and do something about them.
  • Formally show your focus on safety on your website or social media page.
  • Put up work health and safety signs, posters or a notice board.

Leader practices

  • Personally decide to make safety as important as any other part of your business process.
  • Be able to explain to others why safety is important to you and your business.
  • Show enthusiasm and interest for good health and safety outcomes.
  • Walk around your business, talk to workers about safety and find out what their biggest safety issues are.
  • Be ready to act on safety issues as they are raised, explain your actions.


Get involved

When supervisors and managers are actively involved in safety, workers are more likely to raise safety issues and follow safe work procedures. You can help improve everyone’s attitude to work health and safety by leading by example in your business.

Business practices

  • Set goals for the safe work environment you want and regularly check progress against these goals.
  • Put in place systems for safety issues to be communicated, both from your workers up to you and from you down to your workers.
  • Include these systems for communicating about safety in your business documentation, for example planning inductions and updates.
  • Formally communicate your focus on safety to everyone involved in your business, for example by email, or in meetings.
  • Make sure any supervisors in your business are consulted on safety, and that they all apply the same approach to safety practices when supervising work.

Leader practices

  • Communicate the importance of safety in different ways so everyone can understand the message, for example talks, emails, posters, and demonstrations.
  • Give regular feedback about the safety and practices in your workplace and help improve them.
  • Lead by example – show your workers how you expect them to
  • wear correct personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • follow safe work procedures, and
  • participate in safety training.
  • Hold regular toolbox talks about safety.
  • Help with identifying hazards and developing safe work procedures.


Encourage participation

You can improve the safety culture in your workplace by encouraging others to get on board with your approach to work health and safety. This can include the way you speak about safety, respond to safety issues and involve others in thinking about and acting upon safety issues.

Business practices

  • Schedule regular paid time for workers to talk about and act on health and safety issues. This may include:
  • developing safe work procedures
  • maintaining tools and equipment
  • making changes to workplace layout that improve safety, and
  • refreshing their knowledge of good safety practices.
  • Have different ways to reward and recognise good work health and safety practices, for example spoken and written encouragement.
  • Have a formal way of quickly and easily raising and resolving safety issues, for example a form or an email template.
  • Inform new staff of the practices and procedures you have in place to get them involved in health and safety.

Leader practices

  • Make time to attend and actively contribute to your business safety management practices.
  • Regularly reward your workers’ work health and safety contributions and give prompt feedback on safety issues.
  • Talk to your managers and staff about safety
  • walk around the business and speak with your staff about safety
  • ask for input on planned equipment or machinery purchases, and
  • check in on safety once business changes have occurred.
  • Act on feedback, or give reasons why you didn’t.
  • Promote an open, positive environment for dealing with health and safety concerns.


Make work health and safety part of your business

Make work health and safety a regular part of running your business. Including work health and safety in your standard processes can improve normal standard practice for everyone involved in your business.

Business practices

  • Include work health and safety when you allocate responsibilities to people in your business, and follow up on their progress.
  • Provide resources to manage work health and safety risks
  • ensure workers have the right equipment and training to carry out their tasks safely, and
  • allocate time to check that safety related activities, such as reviewing procedures and pre-start checks, are being done.
  • Make sure all staff, including supervisors, are sufficiently trained and competent.
  • Consider work health and safety at the same time as you are making other business decisions, for example:
  • purchasing equipment, and
  • engaging sub-contractors.
  • Include work health and safety in your induction for new workers.

Leader practices

  • Discuss safety with your managers or staff as part of a regular performance review.
  • Review your budget and make sure that money allocated for safety has been spent on safety, and that the amount you allocate to safety is appropriate.
  • Hold your staff and contractors accountable for safety performance.
  • Ask staff to explain safety protocols to you and check whether or not they are easy to follow.
  • Be present for new worker inductions or important team updates relating to safe work practices.


Review your performance

Once you’ve set things in place for good work health and safety management and culture in your business, you will need to regularly check your systems and activities to make sure your improvements are maintained.

Business practices

  • Document the work health and safety risks in your business, and review your documents regularly.
  • Check that control measures are implemented and working as planned.
  • Seek advice as needed from work health and safety professionals about how best to manage health and safety risks.
  • Review your reports into safety performance and issues, and act on any trends you see emerging.
  • Include safety in your business planning and make sure you consider safety during times of change for your business
  • Join your regulator’s or employer association’s safety network or leadership program and learn from others who are facing the same safety issues you are.

Leader practices

  • Be aware of what is happening on the ground, including activities carried out internally or by contractors.
  • Share relevant work health and safety data and information with your workers.
  • Address any health and safety problems when they are identified from your review.
  • Encourage your workers to report incidents and near misses – and learn from these.
  • Take a personal interest in staying up to date to date on safety issues relevant to your business.



Questions should be emailed to info@swa.gov.au.

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