The corporate top-to-bottom message of “work safely because we say so” is changing. A new message is quickly emerging, one that says “we want you to work safe, because at day’s end, we want you to return safely…to the ones who mean most to you”.

It is a much more powerful message that taps a personal side. And it is one that is catching on at facilities across North America. With ever tighter budgets, funds are being shifted away from the incentive programs that have worked to drive safety compliance buy-in for years, and back toward basic programs that directly target what means most to workers — their loved ones.

Safety signs of the times
Companies are beginning to populate products like signs, posters, banners and safety awareness scoreboards with images of the children, the wives, and the husbands of employees within the facility, with common themes like “safety is a family value”, “Who's depending on you to get home safely?” and “Go home safe today.” These personalized safety themes are accompanied by family-oriented images that drive working safely to the most personal level.

“Safe Day” scoreboards have come a long way since the days of chalk and dry-erase markers. Companies are utilizing themed “changeable” scoreboards in an effort to keep messages fresh, noticeable and at the forefront, rather than using a static theme that, after 30-60 days, begins to blend into the background of the everyday facility environment.

Personal messages pique interest
Here at my company, we started a program that truly makes safety personal for our employees. A “changeable” scoreboard is prominently featured near a high-traffic location on our manufacturing floor. On a regular basis, employees submit photographs that mean something to them, with the hope that their treasured photograph will be featured for all employees to see. The theme we use is simple; it states: “I want safety because . . .”, and we design the sign with a randomly selected photo chosen from those submitted by employees. Every month, as the scoreboard changes, our employees get excited to see who will be featured next.

At the bottom, where the digital scoreboard shines through, we remove the bottom portion, allowing the employee, at month’s end, to keep the upper portion, which features the employee with his or her child, niece, nephew, etc. (there’s even been a dog and cat featured). The take-home keepsake is a small memento that employees are always excited to receive. This idea has one goal from a corporate perspective: Keep employees interested in safety by making it personal.

This isn’t an idea that we developed, it is an idea based on a natural progression of complementing ideas. Companies have been working to increase brand-awareness, even internally to employees, but they have asked that rather than just seeing their brand, why can't they see their people as well?

Make it personal
Personalizing safety works for any company, regardless of size, purpose or industry. The overall economic environment remains difficult, but improvement is certainly taking hold. It is still a difficult time for employees to keep their mind on the task at hand. They’re worried about the success of their company, worried about retaining their job, worried about their spouse’s job, worried about paying bills, and so on. This mindset creates an environment where focus can be lost, and that’s particularly troublesome when the employee is doing a specific or dangerous task that could result in serious injury, or death, for themselves or others.

That is why changing the culture from “work safely because we say so” to “we want you to work safe; because at day’s end, we want you to return safely to the ones who mean most to you” resonates more than ever.

It is a message that is being carried from the front gate to the facility’s back dock — garnering buy-in from all locations within the facility, from contractors to visitors, and across multiple locations. Even if you have a multi-location company, the family photos on the scoreboard in the North Carolina plant can be different than those on the scoreboard at the Illinois plant, which will be different than the Tennessee or Georgia plant.

It is an idea that can be tailored specifically to each individual facility, and an idea which will hopefully help you think of new ways to increase employee buy-in when it comes to safety compliance. By getting back to basics, targeting emotional influences that speak directly to each and every employee, you could be well on your way to an even safer facility.