Building a Strong and Resilient Safety Culture Starts with the C-Suite
Safety isn't just something that happens on the front lines - executives also play a critical role in developing and encouraging a strong safety culture.
Every organization wants to achieve a strong and resilient safety culture. In my conversations with safety leaders, I've found that every single one of them maintains a desire to ensure their employees, suppliers, contractors, and customers remain safe.
However, many of those leaders are stuck. They're not sure how to build a strong and resilient safety culture within their organization while still maintaining the common focus areas every executive worries about: customers, employees, revenue, and profit.
Unfortunately, safety often becomes a cost center in the eyes of an executive - an added burden to worker performance, an extra cost taken from an already slim profit margin. It's easy to lose sight of how much organizations can save (in terms of expenses and production) by providing a reliable solution to help assist with safety reporting, participation, and management.
With a solution focused on all three, you can create a strong and resilient safety culture that is not only focused on preventing injuries, streamlining reporting, and increasing participation, but also on your organization’s financial and employee performance.
In fact, access to real-time data can be a cost-saving measure. According to Constructor Magazine, construction teams spend 13% of their working hours looking for data and information. That’s more than 230 hours a year per person, which equates to more than $4,500 per employee. If you have more than 100 employees in your team, that's at least $450,000 per year.
As a CxO, being aware of these numbers is crucial to understanding how you can best support your management and front-line employees. They are also imperative to driving the growth and profitability of your business while creating an environment workers feel proud to speak about and safe to come to every day.
Despite these major benefits, there are some challenges to implementing an effective solution and building a stronger and more resilient safety culture. Here are three barriers we have identified.
1. Reporting on Safety
Building a strong and resilient safety culture starts with defining what makes your business safe. Leading and lagging Indicators, near miss rates, incident rates, hazard reporting - all of these will help you set targets, define what a great safety performance looks like, and hold all managers accountable for achieving results in safety.
Now, think about the way this data is reported. How you report on safety is as important as which metrics you track.
According to McKinsey & Co., organizations that make their data available to frontline workers perform 65% better than those that do not. So why isn't every organization jumping on the opportunity to provide real-time data to their management teams and the people on the front lines? We have seen a notable upswing in those that do, but there is still much progress to be made.
As a CEO, it's easy to declare the intent of having a strong and resilient safety culture at town halls, in management meetings, and in weekly reports to the field. It’s another thing to act on it. Providing your team with a tech solution focused on providing real-time data to mitigate risk is an effective way to put that promise into action and help you on your way to building a strong and resilient safety culture.
2. Worker Participation
Front-line worker participation is key for building a successful reporting system. We have all seen workers carrying out their work in an unsafe manner, whether it's forgetting to wear their hi-vis vest, stepping into a confined space without following safe entry procedures, or not using the proper PPE.
Workers aren't opposed to safety. They just don't see it as important at that very moment. We have noticed that our safest companies are those that have implemented a tech solution that rewards safe behavior among front-line workers. Creating a reward system for those who identify the most hazards, note the greatest number of near misses, or report the most incidents is a great way to move safety to the front of the worker's mind. This ensures that they prioritize safety and procedures over completing the work more quickly.
3. Middle Management Acceptance
Finally, no CEO will have success unless their middle management team accepts that safety is as important as a new sale, a project delivery, or a cost control measure. That's why it's critical that you spend time educating your managers, creating performance and bonus-related rewards for spearheading safety improvements, and holding weekly review sessions with management. This will provide a strong channel to report on how each team is delivering a safer work environment and encourage line managers to push for a stronger and more resilient safety culture.
As CEOs, everything with a business starts and ends with the direction we set, the measurements we review, the tools we provide to support execution, and the rewards we bestow on our teams for achieving the right results. Creating a strong and resilient safety culture is an important step to ensuring the success and sustainability of any organization - and that starts with us.