Three keys to forging a winning safety culture

August 1, 2007
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Make safety personal by building relationships with those around you.


The secret to building a winning safety culture begins with you. When individuals model a passion and conviction to achieve zero injuries, organizations excel in safety. No matter where you fit in an organizational chart, you influence those around you and your positive influence will translate into a winning safety culture.

1) Make your commitment visible
Having a heart for safety is similar to having a heart to win in sports. You can see someone’s competitive nature and commitment to succeed in how they respond to their environment.

I have informally polled thousands of employees over the past 15 years, ranging from employees on the shop floor to senior executives, and I have made an astounding discovery. When I ask people, “Are you committed to safety?” I get a unanimous response. One-hundred percent of the people I have quizzed raised their hands confirming their unwavering commitment to safety. What do you think about those results? How many people are really committed to the zero injury cause?

I have learned to follow my initial question with a more pointed question, “How do I know you are committed to safety?” My inquiry leads to a discussion about recognizing personal commitment through an individual’s actions. Your personal dedication to safety does not exist if you don’t display the commitment with visible, consistent action. Your actions are a reflection of what you really believe about achieving zero injuries.

You can make a difference. Everyone has the opportunity to demonstrate their dedication to safety by taking an interest in safety in every situation. Ask safety-related questions. Make positive safety suggestions. Offer safer solutions for working in your area. Follow the rules. Learn everything you can about safety and teach others from your experience. Get excited and get involved with the safety process.

If you want to develop a winning safety culture, you have to do more than claim you are committed. You have to consistently and visibly model your own personal devotion to achieving zero injuries.

2) Put people first
Every coach wants to win. They have an intense focus on the “numbers” that represent victory, but successful coaches do more than win on the scoreboard. They take a personal interest in their players and develop relationships with them. With a coach’s genuine leadership, players and coaches build a mutual respect for each other. That admiration enables a positive culture with the potential to win on and off the field. Players never forget their coaches and they perform harder for a “players’ coach” because there is more to the game than the score.

Whatever your job title, your personal safety leadership is equivalent to a coach’s influence. People want to work for employers who see them as more than a number. Employees want to spend their eight-plus hours a day working with co-workers who care. The safety score will always be important, but to begin building your safety way of life, you have to be honest with yourself and ask, “How do I visibly put people first? Am I building a mutual respect?” When you shift your focus from a number to a person, safety initiatives gain a sense of urgency.

Make safety personal by building relationships with those around you and take advantage of opportunities to learn what is important to your co-workers. Adopt a servant’s heart that has a desire to help people. When you put other’s needs before your own, you will be amazed at how it changes your perspective towards safety. Each number begins to represent someone’s best friend, spouse or parent.

A players’ coach recognizes the value of the relationship with his players. Building a winning safety culture requires the same focus — a focus that values the faces behind the numbers.

3) Speak of safety
Players and fans love to relive wins and losses. If you love sports, you will talk about it in any environment and your level of enthusiasm during the conversation is a good indicator of how important the game is to you. Sports fans stand out like a sore thumb, because they will give you the play-by-play at home, at work or in any casual setting. If it is important to you, you talk about it.

Demonstrating a heart for safety is like being a huge sports fan…everyone knows your commitment to zero injuries. The context of what you say and how you say it has the power to inspire people. To impress safety on others, you have to be passionate about the quality of life of those around you, and you have to believe working injury-free is a reality.

Motivate people by discussing safety when you’re working. Talk about safety when you are on a break. Begin every meeting with a safety topic. Share safety experiences that have influenced you. Safety leaders inspire safety excellence and develop winning safety cultures by casually discussing safety in every setting.

Talking about sports comes natural for sports fans. If working in a zero injury environment is important to you, it will naturally become a topic of your conversations. Develop your winning safety culture by becoming safety’s greatest fan — reliving the wins and losses every chance you get.

Building a winner
Sports fans love a winning program and today’s workforce has a desire to build winning safety cultures. The beauty is… you can begin the process free of charge. You can start by asking yourself three questions:

1) Is my safety commitment visible?
2) Do I put people first?
3) Is safety a topic of conversation?

These are three keys to modeling your passion and conviction to build a winning safety culture. Benefits of a winning safety culture extend to the families and friends of every person at your place of employment. Make a difference in someone’s life!

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Recent Articles by David Lynn, CSP

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