Make Safety a Way of Life in Your Workplace
Is safety a key value and essential part of day-to-day life in your workplace — part of your company’s culture? It should be.
Why build a culture of safety? For two reasons: productivity and profitability. A safe organization will run more productively, with fewer employee injuries (and associated absences) and fewer safety infractions that interrupt work. A safety culture can make your organization more profitable for the same reasons; a fully staffed, healthy workforce means the work gets done without costly injuries that impact your bottom line.
Building a strong safety culture starts with these three best practices:
1. Secure a strong buy-in from key influencers.
The 80/20 rule applies to an organization’s culture: 20% of staff set the culture, and the other 80% follow it. The 20% who really influence your company’s culture — typically, highly respected mid-level managers and senior employees at all levels — must be on board with the safety standards and policies. This means involving those staff members early on in the process of planning and forming safety policies.
The other benefit of involving these influencers is they have intimate knowledge of the day-to-day job. Recall from this article that the primary reason employees don’t follow safety procedures is because of discomfort or frustration with their personal protective equipment (PPE) and other safety equipment. Influencers are working in the trenches with the rest of the team, so they’re in an ideal position to explain why following the correct procedures and using safety equipment is important.
2. Set clear goals, standards, and consequences.
Management must define easy-to-understand safety standards and communicate them clearly. With clear standards in place, management should also clearly communicate the consequences of not following safety standards, enforce those standards, and provide both corrective measures and incentives or rewards, as appropriate.
You also need metrics that assess your organization’s safety program. In addition to tracking incident rates, consider using proactive metrics such as the number of infractions cited, safety meeting attendance, and safety pop quiz results. Another way to gauge the effectiveness of your safety program is to rate staff members for their role in promoting safety either quarterly or at an annual review.
Additionally, managers and their teams must have the tools they need to be safe. Such tools include PPE as well as other safety products that are relevant to the job and work materials: for example, fall protection, absorbent mats, and absorbent pads and rolls that reduce risk of slip, trip, and fall accidents.
3. Constantly improve your process.
Safety policies and standards should not be a “set-and-forget” idea. Teams should conduct regular safety meetings to discuss how the equipment and policies are working. Company leadership should provide opportunities for employees to suggest ways that the company can be more productive and make better equipment investments. Make safety a way of life for your organization, not just an ideal or something only taken seriously when someone is watching.