A strong safety culture keeps employees safe and workplaces productive. Investing in safety reduces the likelihood of workplace injuries and costly shutdowns. Recent studies* have shown an ROI of between $3-$6 for every $1 invested in safety. Here, we highlight four steps to building safety culture that can be implemented at any organization.
1) Make safety culture a priority from the start.
The best time to start building safety culture is on Day 1. When an organization succeeds at creating a positive safety culture, new employees assimilate into and reinforce the culture. However, when safety isn’t a priority, employees revert to past experience and training. This creates a loose safety culture that shifts as new employees join the organization. Strong safety cultures remain stable, even as new people and processes are incorporated.
When building safety culture, it’s always better to start with a tight safety program that can be relaxed than a loose program that may require strengthening. Organizations starting with lenient programs tend to struggle with compliance when future processes require stricter policies. Keep this in mind when developing policies that fall into the “either/or” or “best practices” categories. Anticipating and preparing for future needs minimizes program change and disruption.
2) Demonstrate safety program participation at all levels of the organization.
The most successful programs demonstrate consistent buy-in from all levels of the organization. Supervisor and company leadership involvement is critical to the development and maintenance of a strong safety culture.
Without the support of upper management, safety programs often lack the authority and financial resources necessary to make improvements. Conversely, without input from “at risk” employees, key decision makers may not have adequate input to make informed safety decisions for the organization.
3) Reevaluate the safety program on a regular basis.
Safety programs should be stable, but not static. Active workplace environments are constantly evolving as processes change and new employees are hired. As a result, the safety controls, training, and policies developed on Day 1 may need to be updated as the program evolves.
There are many options when developing a policy for safety program evaluation, but common components include routine safety committee meetings, inspections, audits, and incident and near miss review. The appropriate method and frequency will vary by program, but there are a number of potential solutions.
Don’t be afraid to get help. While conducting safety program reviews, consider bringing in a third party consultant to provide an independent assessment and serve as a second set of eyes. This can help identify gaps that may be flying under the radar.
4) Incorporate safety culture expectations into the interview process.
As a means of building and preserving a strong safety culture, consider introducing safety expectations during the interview process. Since many safety policies (e.g., PPE requirements and food and drink policies) impact day-to-day work life, an early discussion about culture expectations can be mutually beneficial.
Identifying potential friction points during the interview process can go a long way toward preserving safety culture (and employee morale) in the long run.
Building and maintaining a strong safety culture is not always straightforward, but if you make it a priority and remain consistent and intentional, you will be well on your way.
Seeking to build a stronger safety culture? We specialize in helping organizations develop high-quality safety programs that promote safety, efficiency, and productivity. Contact us today at firstname.lastname@example.org or spotlightsafetyinc.com to schedule a free consultation and information session.