Many safety professionals are now expected to manage a multitude of responsibilities – often without the bandwidth or support staff needed. For this reason, safety should not be solely the domain of management. Safety is something that each and every employee must make their most important priority.

Job one

To promote a culture of safety, companies must first recognize the critical importance of practicing 100 percent safe behaviors. Safety should be a primary value that crosses all manufacturing, technical, sales and corporate teams.

Secondly, health and safety need to be understood as the responsibility of every employee, instead of companies siloing risk identification and decision-making with management.

Important considerations

Here are several important components of safety cultures:

 Make safety a core value: Leaders must be inspired and committed, and employees must be engaged and empowered —  from the newest employees to the most experienced. When workers prioritize safety standards and practice safe behaviors, they take ownership of their actions.

 Identify safety champions: At each facility, companies should provide employees the opportunity to become involved in safety management. Safety teams should be responsible for educating employees about safety procedures and helping to foster workforce cultures that promote shared accountability. There should be a personal commitment of “I will work safely,” and a team commitment of “We will work safely.”

 Define approach to safety assessment: Employees should be able to easily access information regarding safety and readily engage in guiding improvements. To make sure safety stays top of mind, our mill in Corinth, Miss., for example, developed the STOPP (Stop-Think-Observe-Plan-Perform) method. This method encourages employees to stop and think about their behaviors before they perform a task. For consistent application of this method, our mill in Corinth developed a task hazard assessment tool. The tool provides employees with a checklist of potential hazards to look for and a place to categorize the severity of each identified hazard.

 Elevate risk management to improve performance: Risk management should be treated as a way to improve business performance, not merely as a necessary cost of doing business. A company’s environmental, health and safety (EHS) management system can be used to continually identify risks and hone mitigation strategies to resolve and strengthen safety performance.

 Organize and measure performance quality indicators: Organize performance quality indictors around two general groups of measures: lagging indicators that focus on reactive measures; and leading indicators that are drawn from proactive measures. This holistic measurement system ensures that managers and employees are unified in their efforts to achieve zero fatalities and injuries.

Utilize visual management tools

Visual management tools, such as safety dashboards, can be critical when identifying potential safety gaps, prioritizing continuous improvement activities and determining topics for safety meetings. Dashboards should be utilized at all levels and made available for easy reference, and be discussed regularly during shift changes and team meetings.

These types of tools analyze the current state of safety and health and help gain a better understanding of safety barriers. Understanding these barriers allows a company to make informed decisions about what risk mitigation strategies should be implemented—changing the conversation from reactive to proactive.

Define clear obligations

Trust plays an essential role in achieving a culture of safety. Everyone in a team environment must feel encouraged and comfortable when reporting an incident and correcting unsafe practices.

KCP (Kimberly-Clark Professional) has The Three Obligations. Each employee wears The Three Obligations on their badge no matter their job title or responsibilities. While these obligations are not identical in all mills or facilities, the tenets are the same:

1. I am obligated to refuse to complete any task that I feel is unsafe.

2. I am obligated to confront anyone performing an unsafe act.

3. If I am confronted by another regarding the safety of my own task, I am obligated to stop my work and discuss it.

Building off of these obligations, KCP mill leaders and employees develop trust by discussing mill safety goals during Safety Call-to-Action Sessions. These sessions are conducted in every mill within Kimberly-Clark Corporation and involve all teams coming together to reflect on the previous year’s safety results. After working together to solve any workplace safety problems, facilities move forward from the sessions with team plans and individual commitments.

Take a long-term perspective

To create a robust safety culture, companies should not only remove hazards and develop safety procedures but also aggressively work to change risk prone attitudes and behaviors. Companies achieve this outcome by improving the situational awareness of employees and by offering opportunities for employees to be involved. By establishing a robust culture of safety, businesses will be more productive and efficient, while improving their bottom line.