In a strong safety culture, everyone feels responsible for safety and pursues it on a daily basis. Employees go beyond the call of duty to identify unsafe conditions and behaviors and intervene to correct them.
For instance, in a strong safety culture any worker would feel comfortable walking up to the plant manager or CEO and reminding him or her to wear safety glasses. This type of behavior would not be viewed as forward or over-zealous but would be valued by the organization and rewarded.
Likewise co-workers routinely look out for one another and point out unsafe behaviors to each other.
Companies with strong safety cultures typically experiences few at-risk behaviors, consequently they also experience low accident rates, low turnover, low absenteeism, and high productivity. They are usually companies who are extremely successful and excel in all aspects of their business.
Here are 10 steps you and your management can take to build a strong safety culture, thereby improving safety performance and preventing accidents:
- Define safety responsibilities for all levels of the organization (e.g., safety is a line management function).
- Develop upstream measures (e.g., number of reports of hazards/suggestions, number of committee projects/successes, etc.).
- Align management and supervisors through establishing a shared vision of safety and health goals and objectives vs. production.
- Implement a process that holds managers and supervisors accountable for visibly being involved, setting the proper example, and leading a positive change for safety and health.
- Evaluate and rebuild any incentives and disciplinary systems for safety and health as necessary.
- Ensure the safety committee is functioning appropriately (e.g., membership, responsibilities/functions, authority, meeting management skills, etc.).
- Provide multiple paths for employees to bring suggestions, concerns, or problems forward. One mechanism should use the chain of command and ensure no repercussions. Hold supervisors and middle managers accountable for being responsive.
- Develop a system that tracks and ensures the timeliness in hazard correction. Many sites have been successful in building this in with an already existing work order system.
- Ensure reporting of injuries, first aids, and near misses. Educate employees on the accident pyramid and importance of reporting minor incidents. Prepare management for initial increase in incidents and rise in rates. This will occur if under-reporting exists in the organization. It will level off, then decline as the system changes take hold.
- Evaluate and rebuild the incident investigation system as necessary to ensure that it is timely, complete, and effective. It should get to the root causes and avoid blaming workers.