The “number of days without accident” sign is so familiar; it’s now become a meme. Nevertheless, keeping employees safe is a critical business priority. Are you wondering how to build a culture of safety in your business? This article will help.
What do we mean by a culture of safety? In a safety culture, everyone at the company (at all levels) sees safety measures as a priority. They understand the importance of respecting rules and regulations. They take precautions to avoid accidents in the workplace. They communicate with one another when someone is in danger or endangering others by failing to pay sufficient attention to safety concerns.
The goal of building a culture of safety is to reduce accidents and cut worker compensation claims in the workplace. Yet, creating a culture of safety takes a strong commitment from both management and employees. Our discussion will focus on several important steps in shaping your safety culture, including:
- Defining a culture of safety
- Communicating safety culture to employees
- Implementing training
- Auditing safety culture
- Measuring success continuously
- Resolving issues positively
Defining a Culture of Safety
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) suggests, “safety cultures consist of shared beliefs, practices, and attitudes that exist at an establishment. Culture is the atmosphere created by those beliefs, attitudes, etc., which shape our behavior.”
- General responsibilities of all employees
- Protective equipment required
- Potential job hazards and preventative measures
- Industry guidelines
- Applicable OSHA standards
- Incident reporting procedures
- Necessary record keeping and documentation
In creating a safety policy, be wary of any situations where there may be competing priorities. Make it clear you don’t want to prioritize production goals over safety. Educate employees about the importance of safety first.
Communicating Safety Culture To Employees
Creating a culture of safety demands communication—lots of it. In addition to signage and labeling to make people aware of potential risks, hold regular safety meetings. Posters communicating key safety objectives from the policy document can serve as visual reminders. Your safety coordinator might email tips to improve health and safety in the workplace every month. Or managers could start every meeting with a quick share of some ideas to improve workplace safety.
Providing point-of-use safety information at workstations or outlining specific safety policies and practices broken down by job can also be useful. Temporary workers must have access to workplace-related safety communications.
Also, keep up with and communicate any changing industry regulations or OSHA standards that could impact your employees. Using pictures and videos provided by industry associations or national regulators can help.
Safety education needs to be ongoing. Putting your safety standards in an employee handbook and expecting people to read them, and keep up with the rules, isn’t going to get you very far. Demonstrate that the culture of safety is a priority by offering continuing education around safety issues.
Hold regular safety meetings—more than once a year!—to maintain your employees’ safety awareness. They may have had safety training at orientation, but things change. Or they forget what they learned back in those first days of absorbing so much new information. Having short, focused safety training on a specific topic every quarter can emphasize the importance of safety culture.
Train supervisors and managers to understand how their decisions could put employees at risk. Also, train specific workers in hazard identification and best practices unique to their roles and responsibilities.
If someone does get injured or an accident does happen, use it as a learning opportunity. Remind people of the policies and procedures that could avoid a similar thing happening again. At the same time, don’t overlook lessons learned from near misses. In the event of an “almost-accident,” the law firm Cameron and Roberts recommends launching an investigation “into its cause and determine what could have prevented it.” New safety practices may be required.
Auditing Safety Culture
First, a safety culture should encourage employee reporting. You want your staff to feel comfortable reporting concerns. After all, they are on the frontlines and more likely to spot potential hazards. A positive safety culture will reward employees who make management aware of any safety issues.
It’s also a good idea to establish regular audits of safety measures. Your business should have someone who is focused on health and safety issues. They can regularly monitor the company’s health and safety program. You might also work with an external auditor to confirm that you are doing the best you can from an outsider’s perspective.
Measuring Success Continuously
The number of days without an accident is a common way to gauge success. However, every business can establish its own metrics for success. Set measurable goals so that there is a concrete definition of success.
Safety and Health Magazine suggests metrics such as:
- Employee hours spent on safety prevention
- Funding for safety program
- Pass rate of training competency evaluations
- Number of observations and safety suggestions submitted
- Inspection scores
- Audit scores
- Percent of safety procedures reviewed
Participation is another good one. Knowing that everyone at the organization participates in safety measures helps demonstrate motivation and awareness of health and safety measures. After all, in a Safety Culture Survey of hundreds of organizations, “90 percent of respondents believe employees should caution others when they’re operating at-risk. However, only 60 percent say they actually do provide this critical feedback.” Publicize participation to make proactive safety behaviors the norm.
It also makes sense in any employee surveys to ask after their satisfaction with how your company handles health and safety. You might also use employee engagement tools to gauge how effective people feel their managers are in communicating and upholding the culture of safety.
Successful results can be shared on the business website to engage employees and improve the customer perspective of your company.
Resolving Issues Positively
Prioritizing health and safety should be essential for continued employment. Yet, keep reactions to issues or accidents in perspective. If your people are afraid to come forward to report concerns, the danger could escalate without you knowing about it.
Train managers and supervisors to resolve issues positively and quickly. When a problem comes to their attention, it should be viewed as an opportunity for improvement. Encouraging transparency and accountability is an important foundation to improving the safety culture. Timely response to any safety hazards is also critical.
Building in rewards or an awards program related to safety can prompt improved compliance. Sharing an employee’s image with their award or recognition on your social media channels or business website can also help to personalize your business.
Creating a culture of safety takes work. Yet, defining and incorporating a safety culture at your company will pay dividends. These simple steps to improve workplace safety can help cut accidents, worker injury, downtime, and related costs. No matter the size of your business or its industry, put safety first, and you’re sure to see benefits to the bottom line and employee engagement too.