Working with a wide-range of Wyoming businesses, in a variety of industries, the topic of creating or supporting a safety culture often comes up in conversation. Before breaking down the critical components of a safety culture, it’s important to define safety culture.
She is a Wyoming native and UW graduate (#GoWYO) who understands our communities and how we do business. She designs and facilitates programs like The Guardian Project, Leadership Casper, Junior Leadership Casper and has worked with hundreds of people across our State. She is a proud Wyomingite who is dedicated to contributing value and creating a positive difference for others. RMI is proud to partner with her on this series.
What is a "Safety Culture"?
A safety culture is the result of a set of core values and behaviors that stress safety as the priority. While values are at the core of every culture, an organization’s culture is ultimately defined by what is said and done - behaviors define culture. While each organization has, or should have, its own description of what an ideal safety culture is, based on its values, there are key components that should be common to all.
7 Critical Factors of a Safety Culture:
1. Good working relationships, at all levels, is vital.
Trust is an essential component of an effective safety culture. Mistakes and missteps, while unfortunate, provide invaluable learning opportunities. These situations create an opportunity for conversation: What happened? Why did it happen? How can we ensure it doesn’t happen again? Employees who have a good relationship with management are more likely to speak openly and honestly about what is working, what is not and what could be improved.
2. Safety is part of the day-to-day mindset.
Safety isn’t treated as something separate from daily work habits – an add-on to be discussed during weekly safety meetings or at shift changes. Safety is an attitude, a mindset, that is part of every conversation and decision.
3. Your entire workforce needs to work relentlessly to identify and resolve hazards.
Establish systems and processes for correcting hazards as quickly as possible. Maintaining good internal communication will not only create a safer workplace, it will improve employee engagement. When responsibility for safety falls on all employees, from front line to management, employees are more committed to safety initiatives.
4. Safety cultures are built on Brainstorming not "Blamestorming."
No one is blamed for near misses or incidents. Instead, brainstorming is done to identify root causes and the best solutions. At-risk behaviors often lead to incidents and there are usually organizational systems and practices that unintentionally encourage those at-risk behaviors. It is important to adjust/correct the systems and then establish accountability to encourage safe behaviors.
5. Employees need to feel comfortable stopping at-risk behavior when it’s observed.
They need to be able to speak up without fear of retaliation or retribution. Employees should be encouraged to recognize and praise others when safe behavior is observed. While coaching and feedback are important for performance improvement, positive reinforcement is critical for building safe habits.
A strong safety culture is created when all your employees are actively involved in giving positive reinforcement for behaviors consistent with the desired culture.
6. Celebrate successes along the way to maintain momentum and sustain a safety culture.
Praise and recognition shouldn’t be reserved for just your company’s safety record. Focus on what is being done every day, all day to achieve that record.
7. Discipline has a place, but most safety issues can be effectively managed without discipline.
Fear of discipline drives under-reporting, stifles engagement, and actually works against building a culture of safety. The fear of discipline tends to deter employees from reporting incidents, which cripples the organization’s ability to learn from mistakes and work to become more proactive. When the use of discipline outnumbers the use of positive reinforcement, morale drops, trust is weakened, productivity dips, teamwork suffers, and employees become disengaged.
Intentional, positive reinforcement of desired behaviors leads to rapid change, employees begin to not only demonstrate desired safety behaviors, but they reinforce those behaviors in others.
Employees and organizational leaders build a culture of safety through specific actions and behaviors that demonstrate their commitment to safety. These observable actions and verifiable behaviors should make safety everyone’s responsibility, promote open communication about safety concerns, provide safety training and education, empower employees to identify and resolve hazards and risks, and recognize/reward safe practices and behaviors.