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How do you create a culture of safety in your workplace?

Q:

People are always talking about how organizations need a good safety culture. Makes sense. But how do you actually influence or create a culture of safety in your workplace?

A:

A culture of safety goes far beyond statistics outlining how many accidents or fatalities have happened in a workplace. It is not merely about numbers or impressive figures, but instead is about shared values among all people in a workplace. These values originate from a company’s senior management team who must place a strong emphasis on consistently doing things the correct and safe way – even if the safe way is more costly (at least in the short-term) than other alternatives.

Cultivate Employee Buy-In

Even though a safety culture must be valued by senior management and clearly communicated from these officials to workers, a true safety culture can never be fostered simply by a top-down approach. It is not sufficient for workers to do things simply because they are following an order. Instead, workers need to believe in what they are being asked to do (for helpful tips read 5 Reasons You Struggle With Safety Buy-In and What To Do About It).

Buy-in to the safety culture is often generated by actively involving workers in task forces and committees focused on this challenge. Health and safety committees, therefore, should be comprised of members of the company’s management and individuals who are working in all levels at the company, including those who work in dangerous conditions, contractors, and safety specialists.

Go Beyond Policy with Effective Training

Frequently, companies have drafted impressive policies that target workplace safety that, in reality, do little more than pay lip service to this concept. Moreover, this lip service sadly often extends only as far as conversations with investors and external stakeholders. Many safety managers report being asked to do unsafe things or bend or break rules even in companies with well-established safety protocols. To ensure that companies do the right thing on a day-to-day basis and that a clear safety culture exists in the company, it is crucial for companies to provide effective, comprehensive training to workers (find out why you should Invest in Employee Training). Workers cannot be safe unless they know what to do in a variety of challenging real world situations. This training should go beyond simply reading materials or checking off a box. Ideally, training should include real world simulations recreating a worker's actual experience on the job. These simulations may be particularly important in certain high risk industries, such as metals and mining.

Get Clear on Reporting

In addition to effective training, a culture of safety also requires companies to implement clear reporting procedures. Workers need to understand what is expected from them from a reporting perspective; and management needs to have accurate injury and fatality figures so that they can implement safety upgrades if necessary. The proper process for reporting, as well as the support from management and the workplace as a whole to adequately report all incidents, are equally important.

The goal for any company is to create a culture of safety that ensures that workers are happy, healthy, productive, and safe as they go about their daily work. As highlighted above, a safety culture, however, is not merely about injury and fatality figures. It is a more holistic concept focused on putting in place values and policies that support these efforts.

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Written by Doug Lara
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Doug Lara has been a part of the safety industry for over 30 years. He has many accomplishments—business owner, guest speaker at various colleges, built safety training courses. Doug currently serves as the Chairman of the Board of SafetyNetwork.Me and is the father of three boys and husband to his wonderful wife Holly.

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