Columns / Training Strategies

The benefits of a positive culture can’t be ignored

November 4, 2013
/ Print / Reprints /
ShareMore
/ Text Size+
Imagine you work at a company in say, manufacturing, that is up-to-date with all of its safety regulations, including emergency plans and machine procedures — but that is where the safety discussion stops.

Your supervisor lacks positive leadership, your new co-worker has not been thoroughly trained, and most of the other workers seem to be unmotivated. On top of that, you start to notice a low morale in the workplace, and you’re not sure what to do about it.

How does that make you feel?

What if there were an emergency? Even with the company’s safety regulations, would you or your coworkers know the protocol of how to handle an injury, a broken machine, or a fire?

Questions like these need to be answered by everyone in the company. OSHA requires employers to have an emergency action plan and to stay current with safety regulations, but many companies are missing a key point in keeping employees informed. More than just having the proper plans in place in case of an emergency, organizations should be defining safety responsibilities, establishing safety goals with accountability systems and incentives, and making sure all employees are working together to ensure the health, safety, and well being of every employee.

That’s where safety culture comes in. Having a strong safety culture within an organization promotes more than safety; it benefits worker confidence and retention, organizational behavior, and even productivity. According to OSHA, developing a strong safety culture has the single greatest impact on accident reduction of any process. This is why developing these cultures should be a top priority for any company.

Defining safety culture

You may be asking: “Well, that sounds great! But what exactly IS a safety culture?”

Think of safety culture as similar to that of human cultures; there is a sharing of beliefs, practices, and attitudes that exist as an establishment. The culture is then created by those beliefs, attitudes, etc. which shape our behavior. To assist companies with this initiative, OSHA has a webpage devoted to developing a strong safety culture in organizations, facilities and plants, with a common theme being that all employees have a key role in the safety and health process.

A focused process

Now the bigger question becomes: “How do I shift my organization’s culture to a culture where all employees are focused on safety?”

Changing your organization’s culture to one focused on safety is a process, not an event. To get a world class safety culture in your organization, a true safety culture begins with a few dedicated leaders, providing clear and concise direction with achievable goals, and continues to prosper when everyone in an organization is involved and dedicated to a safer workplace. Hold every employee accountable for their part in safety culture processes. Whether you are senior management, a plant or corporate safety and health professional, a first-line supervisor, or a front-line employee — you are responsible for the people who report to you, the physical area you supervise, and everyone who enters your area.

Here is a system of FOCUS-ing on how to create a strong safety ethic that resonates throughout your organization.

F- Focus

Focus on getting a new safety culture up and running in your organization. There are no shortcuts on a path to world class; it takes time and patience, but it is well worth the effort.

O-Observation

Go into your work environment, your plant floor, or building site and use all of your senses to observe the activities of these areas. Look everywhere to get a big picture of how your company is operating.

C-Communication

Remember that silence can mean consent in many situations, so take action to communicate with your employees and co-workers. Good communication can help gain employee involvement and commitment to uncover the underlying causes of accidents so you can take corrective action and/or prevent a recurrence.

U-Understanding

Recognize that a strong safety culture will benefit both the employees and the company. Shift your safety philosophy to work on understanding the message you want to send to others through your actions and words to support a safer environment.

S-Safety

Write down your safety and health policy and review the specific responsibilities and contributions with all members of your organization. Everyone should know about this policy, know what is in it, and know where to find it. Keep in mind that employees will take safety seriously if their managers or supervisors do.

The objectives here are to modify employee behavior, improve the safety management process, and reduce injuries and their related costs in the workplace. Improving the overall safety and safety awareness within your organization will encourage the growth of your safety culture.

Commit to world class safety

Creating a positive safety culture does not just improve safety, but benefits productivity, staff retention, and the overall organizational behavior. Stay focused and committed with achievable goals that, once met, can be recognized and celebrated with all employees in your organization. 


References

 “Creating a Safety Culture.” Occupational Safety & Health Administration. U.S. Department of Labor, n.d. Web. 01 Oct. 2013.

Einselen, Sarah. “10 Steps Key to Creating a Safety Culture, Consultant Tells Safety Council.” Galion Inquirer. OHIO Community Media, 17 Feb. 2012. Web. 2 Oct. 2013.

Knox, Chris. Personal Interview. 03 Oct. 2013.

“Regulations (Standards - 29 CFR).” Occupational Safety & Health Administration. U.S. Department of Labor, n.d. Web. 02 Oct. 2013.

Zizzo, Stephanie. “8 Steps to a Strong Safety Culture.” ISHN. BNP Media, 2 Aug. 2011. Web. 03 Oct. 2013.

Did you enjoy this article? Click here to subscribe to ISHN.

Recent Articles by Katherine McCarthy

You must login or register in order to post a comment.

STAY CONNECTED

Facebook logo Twitter YouTubeLinkedIn Google + icon

Multimedia

Videos

Image Galleries

ASSE Safety 2014 Review

A gallery of photos from the sprawling Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, where ASSE’s annual professional development conference was held June 8-11. All photos courtesy of the American Society of Safety Engineers.

9/30/14 2:00 pm EST

Leveraging Sustainability Initiatives to Benefit Your Community and Increase Compliance

This webinar will review how General Motors' Sustainability initiatives are being leveraged to improve the community and the environment, create efficient energy programs, improve sustainability tracking, impact on processes and overall reporting and improve overall social, environmental and corporate sustainability.

ISHN Magazine

ISHN SEPTEMBER 2014 COVER

2014 September

ISHN'S September issue features a series of essay on thought leadership. Get expert advice on self-motivation, compliance and more!

Table Of Contents Subscribe

THE ISHN STORE

M:\General Shared\__AEC Store Katie Z\AEC Store\Images\ISHN\safetyfourth.jpg
Safety Engineering, 4th Edition

A practical, solutions-driven reference, Safety Engineering, 4th edition, has been completely revised and updated to reflect many of today’s issues in safety.

More Products

For Distributors Only - SEPTEMBER 2014

ISHN FDO SEPTEMBER 2014For Distributors Only is ISHN's niche brand standard-sized magazine supplement aimed at an audience of 2,000 U.S. distributors that sell safety products. Circulation only goes to distributors. CHECK OUT THE SEPTEMBER 2014 ISSUE OF FDO HERE

ishn infographics

2012 US workplace deathsCheck out ISHN's new Infographic page! Learn more about worker safety through these interactive images. CLICK HERE to view the page.