Special Topics in Safety Management

How’s Your Safety Culture?

Organizations with strong safety cultures tend to experience low levels of risky behavior and low accident rates, turnover, and absenteeism as well as high productivity.

To strengthen your safety culture, here’s a list of suggestions:

  • Give away ownership. In the strongest safety cultures, everyone feels responsible for safety. A worker who notices another worker without safety glasses should not look the other way—even if the worker who notices is a maintenance mechanic and the offender is the plant manager.
  • Develop metrics. Measure the strength of your safety culture by tracking the number of hazard reports, safety suggestions from workers, or safety committee projects successfully completed.
  • Create shared goals. Management, supervisors, and line workers should agree on safety and health goals and objectives.
  • Hold leaders accountable. If managers and supervisors don’t care, workers won’t either. Hold workplace leaders accountable for their involvement in the program and the example they set.

Having an effective and consistent program in place for enforcing safety rules, performance, and behavior is vital for a successful safety program. BLR’s upcoming live webinar will provide a roadmap for developing and implementing an effective enforcement strategy. Learn more.

  • Use carrots and sticks. Reward employees who make valuable contributions to safety, and make sure you apply discipline fairly and consistently as needed.
  • Build an effective safety committee. A well-oiled safety committee is one of the best ways to strengthen your safety culture.
  • Solicit input.Workers should have multiple avenues for offering suggestions, reporting problems, and asking questions. Make sure that if you receive input, supervisors and managers act on that input in a timely and appropriate manner.
  • Correct hazards promptly. Put a system in place to track the correction of safety hazards. Again, if issues are identified but not dealt with in a timely way, workers will lose faith in the system. If management can ignore hazards, cut corners, and put off needed repairs, why can’t workers?
  • Identify near misses.Make sure workers know how to identify and report near misses and minor incidents. Management will need to understand that initially, this will cause an apparent rise in reported incident rates—but it will also result in long-term gains as problems are identified early and injuries prevented.
  • Investigate all incidents. It is vital to fully investigate all incidents and address their causes. Make sure that you identify root causes and that workers are not blamed for the sake of convenience.

A well-written, clear discipline plan is also crucial for enforcement of safety rules. Join us on April 9 for an in-depth webinar on how to legally discipline risk-takers who ignore workplace safety obligations. Click here for details.

Send a Clear Message

Having an effective and consistent program in place for enforcing safety rules, performance, and behavior is vital for a successful safety program. A well-written, clear discipline plan is also crucial for enforcement. Without such a plan in place, it’s likely that overall safety results such as accident frequency, workers’ compensation costs, and employee morale will start trending the wrong way.

To demonstrate to OSHA that your company has implemented a comprehensive, successful safety program, you must be able to show that you have a documentable disciplinary program in place. Serious compliance issues, resulting in potential violations, citations, and penalties, may occur if you don’t. 

Additionally, if you don’t include a disciplinary component as part of your enforcement program, you run the risk of not being able to use the "unpreventable employee misconduct/isolated incident" defense. "Unpreventable employee conduct" means even though the employer maintained an effective safety program, the cause of an accident was the unsafe act of the employee.

Join us for an in-depth webinar on April 9. The presenter, a seasoned safety lawyer who has helped many companies design and implement an effective safety enforcement program, will provide a roadmap for developing and implementing an effective enforcement strategy, including infraction discipline—often a missing ingredient in existing safety programs.

You and your colleagues will learn:

  • Recent approaches that OSHA has taken when inspecting and evaluating a company’s safety enforcement program   
  • How to write a comprehensive, clear, and fair safety rule enforcement policy that can stand up to union and OSHA scrutiny   
  • Who should be involved in developing and implementing the safety rule enforcement policy  
  • Key components that must be included in your safety rule enforcement policy and best practices for effective implementation   
  • How to best communicate the safety rule enforcement program to key groups, especially line supervisors and employees  
  • How to verify that the existing safety rules are clear, concise, and consistent and that all employees have been properly trained and understand the required safety rules to follow
  • How to tell if supervisors are consistently enforcing your safety rules  
  • How to generate support and participation from all levels of the organization as you implement you safety rule enforcement program   
  • How to identify and evaluate external resources—legal, safety consultants, human resources—that can help you develop and implement an effective and comprehensive safety work rule enforcement and disciplinary process

About Your Speaker

Attorney Adele Abrams, CMSP, is an attorney and safety professional who is recognized as a national expert on occupational safety and health. She heads a ten-attorney firm that represents employers and contractors nationwide in OSHA and MSHA litigation, and provides safety and health training, auditing, and consultation services.

Abrams is a Certified Mine Safety Professional, and a Department of Labor-approved trainer. She is also a professional member of the American Society of Safety Engineers, and is co-author of several safety-related textbooks. She is chair of the National Safety Council’s Business & Industry Division committee on regulatory and legal affairs. She is admitted to the Bars of MD, DC and PA, as well as multiple federal courts including the U.S. Supreme Court.

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