Safety is what? Safety is a goal. Safety is a mentality. Safety is effort. Safety is a work in progress. Safety is something every company should treasure. A quick look around and you’ll see professionals, organizations, schools and businesses touting their unwavering dedication to safety. But what does that mean? Some will point to their low incident rates. Some will focus on recordkeeping and low fatality statistics. Whatever your definition of safety may be, in order to achieve your safety goals, you’re going to need everyone on board. So how do you create a genuine safety culture?
Alignment – The Safety Mantra
Your first step is to get everyone on the same page regarding what it is you consider a safe environment. If you are focusing on injury free days, is everyone in your company clear on what constitutes an injury? When they take a look at your new days since last accident sign, what do those numbers mean? Is an injury any incident that results in time off work? Is an injury any accident that involves administration of first aid? The answers to these questions will vary depending on where you are in the process. Set reasonable goals and get everyone involved from the start. If you had a lost time incident last month, focus on lost time injuries. If your last lost time accident was five years ago, you’re doing great, but it’s time to do better. Start focusing on any injuries that require first aid. The key here is to set reasonably achievable and clearly defined safety goals.
Here is an example of a reasonable mantra.
- All lost time injuries are preventable
- Every individual is responsible for their own safety and the safety of others
- Injuries will never be considered “part of doing business”
- Regular safety meetings will provide a forum for blame free open communication about all safety concerns
- Every employee is entitled to take action when witnessing potentially unsafe behaviors or conditions
You’re not operating in a bubble and there is ‘real business’ to be done. You must find ways to continually engage your employees and give them ownership of the process. You are striving for a culture where your employees choose to follow the rules and procedures because they own and genuinely value their safety, and not because it’s been mandated from on high.
Commit to ensuring that every employee goes home safe each and every day. Encourage employees to take responsibility for their behaviors by celebrating those who identify hazards and report and/or fix them as they are discovered. Give them the freedom and courage to speak up or take action when they witness unsafe behaviors secure in the knowledge that they have the full backing of management.
You must support your safety goals with action and hard work. Remember your goal is a safe work environment. Creating and maintaining a culture that strives for continual improvement demands taking action and demonstrating care on a daily basis. Policies, procedures, and zero incident rhetoric mean nothing if not backed by genuine concern and a commitment at all levels.
Rinse & Repeat
So you’ve met your goals. You’ve talked with employees and are confident everyone is on board. You’re injury statistics are trending down, and concerns at regular safety meetings are few and far between. Now it’s time to hone those goals and repeat the process with new and improved objectives. Until you’ve stopped ordering band aids, your job is never done.