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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.