A growing number of companies are using team-empowered safety programs to increase revenue, retain employees, and create a positive work atmosphere where everyone feels included.
Although establishing this type of program may seem a bit intimidating or require too much effort, creating an environment where safety is more than just a set of policies to be followed will bring out and nurture the very best from both individuals and departments within your organization.
Besides enhancing communication practices and providing professional development opportunities, this approach can transform an adequate safety program into a genuinely outstanding initiative, and help to set a precedent for high achievement in other areas of your company (learn about Empowering Your Whole Team to Improve Safety).
If you're attracted to the promise of a team-based safety program but worry that implementing it will be too daunting, here are seven ideas to get you started.
7 Ways to Empower a Team-Based Safety Program
1. Encourage a Culture of Communication
Have frequent conversations about safety outside the boundaries of formal meetings. Make safety the go-to topic whenever the opportunity presents itself.
As a manager or team leader, you need to show by example that discussions about safety are a top priority and that you appreciate input from everyone. In these discussions, it is important to focus as much on what is working well as it is to review problematic issues (learn more in Face-to-Face Safety: The Right Way to Build a Safety Culture).
And remember, a culture of communication is a “two-way” street, not a directive from management. Let everyone know that their input has value.
2. Establish Values and Context
Creating a safety program that demonstrates value and context requires consistency in training, operations, and feedback.
It is crucial that employers not only explain the obvious reasons a successful safety program is important but also to communicate why their safety program makes sense to their particular workplace, industry, and bottom-line.
Clearly defining roles of individuals and teams within the organization will provide you with a framework to move forward.
Establishing new corporate values, or reviewing existing ones, can also be an effective way to launch a team-empowered program. Facilitating training that reflects these values as well as industry standards will help to reinforce a team-based approach to safety.
3. Foster Learning and Safe-Failure
Employers who are continually correcting their team with a “my way or the highway” approach create a work setting where the employee is always seeking approval before initiating action.
On the other hand, an environment where employees can test new ideas related to their safety program will encourage innovation as well as develop a sense of ownership. Because of this, it is vital to foster a culture where employees are encouraged to take calculated risks without the fear of consequences.
4. Inspire Individuals
It's almost common knowledge that employees are not motivated by money alone. Because of that, it's important to consider other ways of encouraging both individual and team-based success as it relates to your safety program.
Finding creative ways to recognize safety milestones is one way to do this. Another way is to create an individualized learning plan for each employee, based on their personal needs and interests, along with your corporate requirements.
While it is essential to recognize the team as much as possible, it is crucial not to forget the individuals that make up that team and acknowledge the progress they make.
5. Encourage Independence and Accountability
Every employee must be accountable to the company's safety program and have a sound understanding of the consequences of failing to meet its requirements (check out these 5 Ways to Foster Accountability and Improve Safety Culture).
A lack of accountability among a few will soon infect your entire organization. As a manager, it is your job to ensure there is accountability, and that it is applied consistently. This includes all the relevant paperwork – preparing and submitting reports can seem a bit dull, but it is a cornerstone of your safety program and should be a frequent and routine process (learn about the connection between Safety and the Broken Windows Theory).
Accountability doesn't have to be an entirely top-down process. Don't be afraid to let workers take the lead in making others accountable to the program. Not only will this encourage the team's buy-in and participation in the safety program, but it will also develop leadership skills among some of your employees.
6. Thank Workers and Celebrate Their Successes
There are many ways to reward your team's successes, including financial bonuses, organizing extra-curricular activities, featuring success stories in company publications, and providing recognition at special events. These are all good ideas, but the most important reward is often a sincere "thank you" from the team leader, manager, or company owner.
Don't hesitate to make a big deal out of small wins. Thank the group and each team member involved. A celebration or even a simple expression of gratitude is a good way to show how your team-based safety program is a critical component of your corporate values and overall success.
7. Make Safety Part of Your Corporate Brand
An outstanding safety record gives you more than just bragging rights. It is value-added equity that can easily be used to sell your product, enhance proposals, and recruit employees. Translate the success of your team-empowered safety program into an operational advantage.
And don't keep this under wraps. Let everyone involved know that their efforts go much further than just reducing the number of safety incidents.
An effective team-led safety program is not out of your reach. Everyone in your company can contribute to its success, so be as inclusive as possible in all aspects of the program.
Create user-friendly systems to encourage participation from all workers in everything from reporting safety incidents to marking success milestones. Make open communication a top priority.
Empowering your team to take an active part in your company's safety program is the first step to countless future team-led success stories.