The Safety Culture
Helping Your Business Create a Safety Culture
There are two main elements to building and upholding a safety culture at the workplace – Leadership and Employee Engagement.
Safety Leadership – Leading by Example
Creating a safety culture starts at the top. In order for any New England business to successfully integrate safety into its culture, upper management must cultivate a workplace culture where safety is promoted as a core value. In order to accomplish this, a strong, authentic, and constant personal commitment to safety must clearly be demonstrated. Therefore, it’s the CEO or President that sets the tone and frames how important safety is within the organization.
5 Ways to Build Effectual Safety Leadership
➢ Create a Comprehensive Safety Vision – In order to facilitate a shift in workplace culture, both leaders and employees must embrace change. Cultural change must be seen as a critical component to employee morale, well-being, and the organization’s continued success. Getting this message across will require effort, an unyielding persistence, and getting employees involved in execution. This means upper management must effectively communicate how changing the safety culture will positively impact both workers and the company as a whole.
➢ Create a Core Team – As suggested above, when it comes to executing this change, be sure to involve employees. Establishing a core team to communicate this needed change to employees can effectively do this. This core team will consist of employees that will listen to the feedback, concerns, and input of their co-workers – truly involving them in the process while a course of action is drafted and executed. From there, this group will also be responsible for monitoring results and posting/publicizing successes.
➢ Communicate/Support the Vision & Key Values – For any safety culture vision to be achieved, employees must be “all in.” This means they must be taught to embrace safety as they carry out day-to-day job responsibilities. Safe work practices must be recognized as “the right way to do things.” Workers must also believe that upper management cares about their well-being and are absolutely serious about fostering a safe work environment.
➢ Communicate What Has Changed & Why It’s Changed – Employees must feel that change is critically important to their own safety and the company’s sustainability. Tie an urgency to change to essential business goals and objectives. Explain what hazards or risks must be mitigated and why. Make each worker feel that they’re not only a valuable part of forever changing the workplace culture for the better, but also a valued contributor to the company’s success that you don’t want to see injured or harmed in any way.
➢ Always Provide Feedback to Leaders/Managers – It’s always good to remind leaders and managers that their contributions and views are valued. Schedule regular meetings to review safety practices and find ways to keep everyone continuously engaged in the process.
Why Employee Engagement Cannot Be Overlooked
While effective safety leadership is key, continuous employee engagement is an equally significant component to nurturing a safety culture. All members within the organization – from top to bottom – must be involved to effectively evolve workplace culture. If not, safety management processes will never reach their full potential and workplace safety won’t be seen as a true priority. Here are a few chief benefits to active employee participation:
➢ Nobody knows more about the risks and hazards of their daily work than your employees. Your workers will surely have valuable input when it comes to improving workplace safety.
➢ Workers tend to feel more valued when their ideas and suggestions are sought out. This improves employee morale, which makes workers more responsible and committed to company goals and objectives.
➢ Workers are more supportive of a safety program if they were actively involved in shaping policies and processes.
➢ Workers will have a personal interest in observing and reporting workplace hazards.
9 Ways to Keep Employees Engaged in Workplace Safety
Remind every employee that they should not only take ownership of their own personal safety, but they have a shared responsibility to ensure the safety of their co-workers and any on-site guests. Here are 9 ways to keep workers engaged in promoting safety at the workplace.
➢ Form A Committee – Establishing a workplace safety committee empowers employees to choose safety representatives within the company. Those named to the committee can be split into different areas of focus – for instance, on-site safety, off-the-job-safety, wellness, or OSHA orientations and training. Committees can also help prioritize safety issues and track the performance of changes.
➢ Hold Frequent Forums or Panels – Be sure to regularly bring employees from different departments and/or locations together to discuss safety concerns. Workplace safety forums or panel discussions in New England don’t just facilitate highly productive discussions and fresh perspectives; they also create a stronger sense of community within the company or organization.
➢ Set Up a Suggestion Box – Allow employees to anonymously voice their concerns, grievances, and recommendations by either setting up an on-site or online suggestion box. The anonymity gives employees a voice without fearing possible repercussions for whistle blowing.
➢ Issue Surveys – Send out short multiple-choice surveys from time to time to gauge where employees stand on certain issues. It’s also not a bad idea to insert a comment section for workers to share related thoughts that didn’t necessarily fit in within the multiple-choice format. Be sure to share survey results soon thereafter and announce an action plan based on the survey’s findings. Workers feel their input matters when companies take the time to administer surveys for feedback.
➢ Safety Drills – Regular safety drills require 100% participation and demonstrate to workers the importance of working together as a team.
➢ Safety Talk – Initiate a short safety talk at some point during a regular staff meeting. This talk can either cover timely or creative safety topics or reiterate important reminders.
➢ Safety Projects – Beyond safety drills, companies are encouraged to engage employees with creative, fun, team-building safety activities.
➢ Hazard and Incident Reporting – Every New England business should have a clearly defined reporting process. Encourage workers to be on the lookout for work hazards or unsafe practices, and most importantly, report what they observe if action needs to be taken.
➢ Stand Down – If there is a major workplace incident, a shut down is when work is temporarily shut down to assess the situation. Rather than wait until a specific incident happens, a shut down can also be issued to dedicate time to employee safety education. By abruptly halting a workday, the company can demonstrate how seriously safety practices are to be taken to initiate dialogue with workers about reporting and addressing hazardous work conditions or unsafe practices.
Successful safety leaders at companies in Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Connecticut can continuously nurture a safety culture by simply ensuring employees understand their role in the process. It’s a matter of educating workers on both their personal and shared safety responsibilities and involving them while defining safety policies and practices.