Workplace safety is a goal for everyone, but how do you develop a culture of safety at your organization? How do you get employees to share your vision of a safe workplace and then implement the steps needed to make it happen?
A safety culture is an organization-wide, broad approach to safety management. It incorporates both individual and group efforts toward values, attitudes and goals put forth to make the workplace safer. Everyone from management to individual employees must be on board and committed to creating a strong safety culture.
One of the first steps to creating an organization-wide safety culture is to establish a safety committee. The safety committee should include members from all departments in your organization. Ask for volunteers from the employee ranks. Volunteers will tend to have an interest in the purpose and goals of the committee. If there are not enough volunteers, choose employees based on those who have shown an interest in safety or made suggestions regarding safety improvements in the past.
Initially, the safety committee should establish goals and define its purpose. The goals should be realistic, measurable and achievable, focusing on hazards, work practices and best practices that contribute to reducing workplace injuries and illnesses. The committee should meet regularly to discuss safety issues and to address any reported unsafe conditions or acts. If a safety issue is reported, the committee should recommend corrective action and then follow up to ensure the hazard is eliminated.
Employees should feel free to voice their concerns and report safety issues to the safety committee or to their supervisor at any time. The safety committee should actively seek out employee ideas and give positive feedback.
Encourage Employee Engagement
Employee engagement is critical to maintaining a healthy safety culture at your organization. Before implementing any proposed workplace changes, discuss them with the employees affected by the changes. Solicit employee ideas during this time. Doing this will allow workers to feel fully vested in the safety conditions for their work areas.
Your employees should be actively involved in reporting hazards, in incident investigations, workplace safety inspections and behavior-based safety. Educate employees on the importance of reporting injuries and even near misses.
In addition to regular meetings to discuss safety matters, hold informal discussions with employees to see if they have any ideas or concerns. If they do, be sure to address them in a timely manner, express appreciation and give them credit. A little recognition goes a long way.
Communication is Key
One of the most effective ways to communicate safety issues and remind employees of their role in the company’s safety culture is through the organization’s newsletter. Members of the safety committee can write brief articles on what the company is doing on a regular basis to increase employee safety. Encourage employees to submit safety articles of their own on general safety best practices or on those issues directly related to their jobs. If your organization has social media accounts, regular safety topic postings can be included to further spread the word.
Many times, the best ideas to address safety concerns come from people who are not on the committee or who aren’t willing to write an article. Reward employees for their good safety ideas. Create a weekly or monthly award that encourages employees to come forward with innovative ways to keep the company safer. Awards can be anything from certificates created in-house to small prizes such as gift cards. Promote the winners in the company newsletter and on social media to keep the momentum going.
Employee engagement can be a powerful tool to improve safety performance, but do not confuse positive reinforcement with incentives. Most safety incentive systems, such as safety awards for employees for no or low accidents, do not improve culture.
The goal should be to motivate employees to engage in safe behaviors that will prevent injuries, illness and damage to equipment. These goals can be met through positive reinforcement to get the desired behaviors.
Activities are a great way to keep safety on everyone’s mind and something you can do throughout the year.
To keep employees focused on safety, use contests, word searches or trivia to test their knowledge about safety practices. Roll out short safety training modules and quiz employees on workplace safety rules and give small gifts to those with the highest scores.
Designate one week out of each month as safety awareness week during which employees are given materials on company safety policies they can put up in their workspaces.
Print safety posters that include quick reminders of company safety rules, and images that help to get the point across. Display the posters throughout the company.
Hold a safety raffle. Announce a designated time period for the raffle, such as a week, or during National Safety Month in June. Whenever a manager or supervisor sees an employee taking proper safety precautions, the employee earns a raffle ticket. At the end of the time period, tickets are drawn with the winner getting a prize.
Developing a safety culture at an organization takes time and planning. With a commitment from management and with engaged employees who are active participants, a climate built on a principle of safety will become a reality for your organization.