Safety is a concept rooted in our everyday lives. When we drive, we think about driver safety and wear seatbelts, stop at stop signs, and use turn signals on highways. We use gloves when handling harmful household chemicals such as bleach, and we keep small objects away from children who might swallow them. We make decisions daily on how to keep ourselves or the ones we love safe.
But what about at the workplace?
Depending on the job, there are many ways in which workplace safety is integrated. Whether you work in construction, guide traffic, or build furniture, there are certain practices and policies in place to keep from getting injured while at work.
When we talk about safety culture at work, we are referring to the beliefs, values, and norms that are accepted and practiced by the company and which shape the safety-related practices by each individual worker.
In order to create a great safety culture, the beliefs and practices must be instilled within all levels of the company.
Organizations with a great safety culture include management teams who consistently practice and advocate for their employee’s understanding and acceptance of their company’s safety plan.
Safety culture in the workplace is best integrated and followed when fully developed and practiced by the company’s executives and management team.
Safety Culture from the Top Down
For employees and outsiders to believe in a company’s safety culture, managers and CEO’s must be the leaders who build a great safety culture for that business. Not only must they develop or build safety programs and systems for the company they run, but they must also practice these values and hold themselves to that practice.
Leaders who practice what they preach will be more effective when attempting to implement company standards. Developing new areas of a company’s safety culture also comes with a responsibility for leaders to frequently communicate with employees.
The leadership team should also frequently display making safe choices and following safety guidelines, and they should include employees in conversations around safety.
When employees have a relationship with their management team, they may be more likely to follow suit and believe in the culture that the management team is attempting to build.
Leadership should also invest in the safety culture of their company. This can be done financially by creating systems and safe workplaces or facilities. When workers feel that their physical environment is safe they are also more likely to believe in the safety culture of that workplace – or believe that their management team cares about their health and safety.
Investing not only financials but also time into building a safety culture is equally critical to ensuring each individual within the company feels connected to the leadership and may, therefore, feel more compelled to share the safety beliefs presented by said leadership.
When building your company’s safety culture, knowing all of the safety risks is key to a successful plan.
First, you must assess the risks that might be putting workers in danger. Start by building a team or hiring an outside company to identify and evaluate potential health or safety risks. Surveys can also be a helpful tool to gather information across the company. Finding out what the risks are and who they may impact most will be a key part of building a better safety culture.
Taking the findings of your surveys and research will help identify the risks so that you can move forward to create a plan that will address the risks.
Safety training – for managers and employees alike – can also help to build a healthy safety culture in the workplace.
There are many types of training programs and educational resources. At Advanced Safety Consulting, we offer courses and training on ergonomics, injury prevention, OSHA violation training, and more.
Offering training in group settings can also be a team-building opportunity when you involve employees and management in one training session. Fostering an environment where all levels of the organization learn together can help to create a closer-knit team and therefore a stronger safety culture within your organization.
Education can also take the form of getting certain employees involved in safety leadership within your company. Appointing specific employees to be the point person for a safety program or programs can help the safety culture of your company trickle down more quickly.
Incentives and Updates
Offering incentives to employees for practicing and being involved in your company’s safety culture can be a great way to build a stronger foundation.
Incentive program ideas can include something as simple as recognizing employees when they report that a workplace injury or accident has occurred. Consistently recognizing employee reports on either safe or unsafe practices further creates a feeling of a more involved management team.
When incentivizing employees, be aware of creating a negative reporting environment. Make sure that the culture of your safety plan is built on honest reporting. Incentives can sometimes become negative if employees are encouraged to have an “injury-free” workplace for a number of days – they may be discouraged to report accidents or hazards with the potential outcome of receiving a bonus or a paid day off. If, however, your company safety culture is built on a foundation of integrity and honesty, then you will probably have little challenge with dishonest reports.
While it may be argued that regularly incentivizing a safe workplace can be costly, it will be way less of a financial stress on your company than regularly occurring injuries and worker’s compensation payouts.
Regularly updating employees on improved safety practices not only keeps communication open but also improves trust. When your employees know that management is not only implementing safety practices but also noticing when employees follow them, trust will be built. Update employees on the progress of your company’s safety culture by having regular group meetings.
Don’t Lose Steam
Even if you feel like you’ve created a solid safety culture for your organization, don’t get too comfortable. Every system can always be improved upon and there are always new opportunities to learn.
Make sure to keep up with training and educational opportunities and continue to communicate with employees on how things are going within your safety plan.
Stick to your commitments to incentivize employees for good safety practices and for reporting injuries and accidents.
Continue to develop your company’s health and safety program by creating opportunities for open communication and trust between your employees and your leadership teams.