So, what does a safety culture look like?
In a culture of safety, employees at all levels are empowered to take action. They own it. They take personal responsibility for the safety of themselves and their coworkers. While every employee understands the value of safety and makes it the priority, management is committed to changing the environment for the better and continually invests in the equipment, services, technology, and training necessary to keep their workers and space safe.
Culture is "the way we do things around here." Building safety into your culture, at a core value level, builds trust and value. Employees see that your organization values its people and treats them as their most important asset. Making safety a core value changes the view of safety as a compliance issue to something that employees can be proud of.
Ready to build a safety culture within your organization? Start here…
The first step in building a safety culture is assessing your current culture. There are several tools out there to help assess your organization's culture. You’ll want to explore and use two basic types of assessment: subjective and objective.
Subjective assessments, such as culture surveys or safety climate surveys, collect honest feedback from every employee. The purpose of an all-employee culture survey should be to create an accurate picture of your culture – the things you do well and the areas to improve.
Objective assessment of safety processes and practices will also help you grow a healthy, safe culture. Objective information is collected by assessing and evaluating your safety systems and processes - by conducting best practice audits, compliance audits, due diligence assessments, site risk assessments, and other process evaluations.
Combining objective and subjective assessments can provide a road map for strategic initiatives that will help improve performance and sustain a culture of safety.
Building a culture of safety takes time and effort. After assessing your current environment, start by implementing strategic initiatives that are safety intentional. Safety initiatives should impact every aspect of your business from hiring procedures and employee orientations, to safety meetings and training. From the quality and focus of inspections, rules and policies, to the quality of your safety equipment, techniques and procedures. Strategies should include how well good health and safety performance is measured and reinforced as well as periodic evaluation for implementing improvement plans. Make safety the core of your strategic intent – every system, every process.
Engagement refers to the level of buy-in each employee feels – their personal commitment to safety and ownership of culture. To increase engagement, focus on developing and improving leadership and commitment at every level. How much do employees know and communicate about health and safety? How committed are they to reliably attend safety training sessions? To what extent are the various levels of your workforce involved in safety improvement processes? How much responsibility do employees show for their own and other people’s health and safety? What is the tolerance level for risk-taking behavior?
To successfully sustain a culture of safety, we cannot depend solely on management and safety personnel to reinforce safety strategies. Everyone in the organization must be empowered to coach others on safety issues.
Encourage team members to coach each other, to speak up about unsafe practices, and to take action to prevent accidents. Everyone in the organization must feel responsible and be accountable for maintaining strong, consistent safety practices.
Peer coaching provides the encouragement and reinforcement to work safely. Coaching can be used to correct performance problems, motivate people to change unsafe work habits, and create a safe and healthy work climate. Encourage coaching as a component of your culture (‘it’s what we do’) to recognize positive behaviors and correct undesirable ones.
With the right strategies, management systems and leadership in place, you can build a strong culture of safety in your organization.