There are several advantages to having a solid safety culture and program in place before you begin a project. Laying a foundation for safety practices in the workplace is absolutely necessary to prevent injuries and illnesses to workers and minimize harmful impacts to the environment. This is true no matter what industry or business you are working in, and it is true whether you have a thousand employees or only five.
Safety culture in the workplace is a way of life, a way of treating others as you would want to be treated and a way of treating the environment with respect (get started with Implementing a Safety Culture: Speak Up for Safety).
Fewer Fatalities, Fewer Injuries
Fewer incidents on the job is always a top priority. If only one life was saved as a result of occupational health and safety programs, it would be worth the effort. But, in reality, their impact is much greater and far more widespread.
Since it was established in 1971, OSHA and its state partners, together with the efforts of employers, safety and health professionals, unions, and advocates, have had a dramatic effect on workplace safety. Injury rates have dropped markedly. In the four-and-a-half decades since the agency came on the scene, workplace fatalities have been cut by 62 percent and occupational injury and illness rates have declined 40 percent. At the same time, U.S. employment has nearly doubled, from 56 million workers at 3.5 million work sites to 115 million workers at nearly 7 million sites.
Successful occupational health and safety programs are cooperative efforts. Best practices require that all employees in a company—from the CEO all the way down to the newest worker—be involved in developing, maintaining, and executing a corporate safety culture.
Having a solid safety culture and program in place early on means you have also laid the foundation for inspections and assessments of the workplace. This is a huge advantage because important information about potential improvements to the business often gets collected and analyzed during these inspection processes.
By getting an early start on strengthening your safety culture, you also have the opportunity to streamline all kinds of operations in your business due to continued inspection and pathways for discussion about how to improve your operations.
According to the Department of Labor, safety programs should “foster a proactive approach to finding and fixing job site hazards before they can cause injury or illness.” Rather than reacting to an incident, management and workers create a team to collectively identify and solve issues before they occur (find out more about Leveraging Leading Indicators to Drive Safety). This collaboration builds trust, enhances communication, and often leads to other business improvements.
What all of this really means is that teamwork works, and that everyone in the organization is involved in identifying areas, no matter how small, that would benefit from making health and safety improvements (learn about The Importance of Employee Engagement and Its Impact on Your Bottom Line). In the process, other things about company procedures get evaluated and knowledge increases with the collective expanded vision. Suddenly, it's not just the supervisor that understands the overall process and it's not just the worker that recognizes the daily hazards; everyone working on the job understands the total mission and wants to work together to see it succeed. Small changes with input from every level of worker create a snowball effect of collaboration, improvement, morale building and trust that continues to grow and leads to greater success.
Health and safety programs require constant monitoring and communication. Much of this requires ongoing training and education about health and safety best practices, and this important work brings stakeholders together for the benefit of the business and the common good of all employees. From the very first report generated, the message should be loud and clear: safety first. This creates an atmosphere where employees feel valued, trust builds, and the company culture becomes a way of life.
This doesn't happen overnight, and it's way more than just compliance. The safety culture of an organization and its safety management system are closely related, but the relationship is not simply that the safety culture complies with the formal safety management system. The safety culture of an organization cannot be created or changed overnight; it develops over time as a result of its institutional history, work environment, workforce, health and safety practices, and management leadership.
Since the ultimate success of an organization's safety culture takes time, it's crucial to start with a solid foundation. Starting off with a safety program and a mission for safety culture will set the path for continued success as the culture evolves. These organizations are like living organisms that grow, expand, and develop through ongoing efforts and facing challenges together.
Benefits For Communities
When companies design, plan, conduct, and report on health and safety inspections, evaluations, and assessments for environmental management, it builds relationships within the company and also with their surrounding communities. Best practices demand that companies manage emissions and waste in a way that shows a commitment to enhancing the well-being of the communities in which they do business.
Industry professionals understand that they must comply with federal, state, and local laws, but leaders go even further to protect the environment and benefit their community. They put policies into place that reach for excellence, and grow and develop attitudes and perceptions about health and safety at work and in communities. They also regularly and systematically measure performance to look for opportunities for future improvement. This is how a solid safety culture makes an investment beyond the doors of the company and into the lives of many others.