How do you go about changing the culture?
A strong safety culture shows that you're priority isn't just profit, and that you truly value your employees' safety and wellbeing. It improves morale, employee engagement, and ensures that safe working procedures are being followed.
Changing your company's culture is no small feat, however. It can be accomplished and many companies have made significant changes to their culture. They have also learned that the process takes time and requires continual effort.
Assessing the Need for Change
Before taking steps to improve your company culture, you should take the temperature of your current safety culture. That way, you will be able to identify the areas that need the most attention.
Measuring your organization’s safety culture in terms of attitudes, behaviors and beliefs isn’t practical. So, how can you assess the need for change in your culture?
It starts by asking questions like the following:
- How well do the employees know the safety procedures and the health and safety guidelines they are meant to follow?
- Are employees able to freely communicate their concerns about safety? Are the lines of communication open? Has it been clearly stated that there are no negative repercussions for speaking up?
- How quickly are safety issues resolved?
- How much does the company invest in health and safety intiatives?
- Does productivity ever trump safety?
- Do the workers feel safe and protected?
- How often are inspections and audits conducted? Are they ever skipped?
- Does management show a clear commitment to safety? Do they make it a priority? Are they doing more than just paying lip service to it?
Steps to Changing the Safety Culture
1. Get Everyone on Board
For the culture to improve, everyone has to get on board with the change - from the CEO down to the newest production hire. In a positive safety culture, everyone shares the same responsibility for safe work.
Safety culture can't just happen from the ground up. Staff quickly notice when management doesn't follow the safety agenda they're imposing on everyone else.
When employees see that management is genuinely concerned about everyone’s safety and willing to go the extra mile to ensure it, employees will be willing to get on board with making changes. Management must encourage feedback and be willing to implement change based on that feedback.
(Find out how to Get Your CEO to Support Safety with the Curve Approach)
2. Help Everyone Understand Their Role
The most difficult task is getting everyone to realize that they are responsible not only for their own safety, but for that of their coworkers as well. To do this, companies often use outside consultants to walk everyone through a short program. The program helps employees see that they take unnecessary risks at work and during off-hours more often than they realize. This helps the employees realize the extent to which they have been relying on luck rather than safety measures.
Once they realize the potential consequences of the way they conduct their work - to themselves, their coworkers, and their families - attitudes start to change. Employees that go through the program usually come out of it realizing that they need to change their behavior before they or someone they care about suffers.
3. Encourage Discussions and Assure Anonymity
For the improvements to last, your organization needs to create an atmosphere where employees can discuss safety without facing negative repercussions. In other words, a production worker should be able to point out a supervisor's or manager's unsafe actions without being penalized for it.
Creating this atmosphere isn’t a great challenge once everyone starts thinking about possible outcomes. Taking the extra time to do a job safely, eliminate a hazard or remind a coworker of unsafe behavior pays big dividends in the long run.
Written by Pete Wiggins | Principal
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