No matter how robust your company’s workplace health and safety measures, without developing a safety culture, these measures will naturally be limited.
Sure, there will be some effort among employees to be safe when it’s convenient and easy. And required steps like measuring certain KPIs for reporting to agencies like OSHA will still be carried out. But for an authentic commitment to safety, making it part of your organization’s corporate culture can deliver the greatest results. Here’s how to do it.
Make Safety a Priority
An important first step in developing a safety culture is signaling to your employees, your customers, and everyone you do business with, that safety is a priority at your organization.
Add a section about workplace safety to your company’s core values statement. Use the occasion of making a change to the core values as a reason to talk it up. Share why the company is making this change and the benefits of it. Employees will appreciate feeling like they’re part of a team and working toward a common goal, which may help increase employee engagement.
Set a Good Example
This is one of those instances where company leadership really needs to “walk the talk”. By modeling good safety practices, it shows employees that worker safety isn’t something that company leaders are paying lip service to; they really mean it when they say it’s important. When employees feel like their concerns about safety are taken seriously, they may feel not just confidence in their employer but also pride in their employer; this can help reduce absenteeism and turnover.
Give It a Budget Line
Developing a safety culture is about more than words. It’s about action, too. And one of the best ways to support a culture of safety is to ensure there’s a budget for essential services, training, and supplies. It tells workers that the company puts so much value on employee safety, it’s willing to spend money on it to make sure workers are protected. Workers feel protected so they can concentrate on doing their jobs instead of being preoccupied with workplace hazards that could prevent them from going home at the end of their shift.
Make Safety Part of Daily Life at Your Company
Find ways to work the importance of safety into everyday company operations, including meetings, departmental reports, and more. When safety becomes part of the day-to-day culture of the company, employees will have an easier time internalizing it and making it part of their own outlook at work.
Incorporate safety concepts during employee self-evaluations, hiring, and promotional considerations. When a company has a good reputation for treating its employees well–including embracing employee safety – it may see increased business and an uptick in job applications.
Use Safety Metrics
If safety matters to your company, measure it. Use HSE metrics and set benchmarks to monitor progress and guide changes as needed. These provide useful data for talking points, help inform decision-making, and may be used to hold leadership accountable.
They’re also useful for sharing with employees to demonstrate the need for safety training and highlight successes as a result of changes in procedures or behaviors. Employees may appreciate it because metrics offer an objective snapshot of how safe a workplace is or isn’t, making it easier to make the case when changes need to be made.
When noticeable progress is made on reducing workplace illness and injury, be sure to acknowledge the hard work it took to achieve those goals. Recognition doesn’t need to be splashy or expensive. A simple and heartfelt email of thanks can be enough; what matters is that people feel like their efforts are seen and respected. Where possible, develop company traditions that center safety concepts, such as a special award at a company-wide event when others are typically also being honored for their years of service.
Developing a safety culture in a company takes time, and progress can be slow. Resist thinking that your efforts aren’t working if you don’t see a dramatic improvement in a month or even three. Changing company culture is like trying to turn a cruise ship, not a canoe. When corporate initiatives change frequently, employees may experience change fatigue, which can add to feelings of disengagement.
A true commitment to safety in the workplace is best supported by developing a safety culture among all levels of employment, from front-line workers to managers and leadership teams. Using these strategies to foster employee understanding and dedication to making a safer workplace requires patience but the rewards are worth it.