Many organizations want to improve their safety culture in order to reduce injury rates, save money, and increase productivity. But how does a company begin to foster a culture of safety? The following are a just few key areas that go a long way toward establishing a positive safety culture in an organization.
- Management commitment. Safety culture must have the full commitment of company leadership. Executives and managers must lead by example by following safety policies themselves and must adopt safety as a core organizational value. Safety efforts must be viewed as complementary to productivity and profitability goals rather than in conflict with them.
- Employee engagement. In an organization with strong safety culture, employees are highly engaged with safety. They don’t resent safety efforts, view safety rules as a nuisance that interferes with their work, or believe that safety is “someone else’s job”; rather, they are fully committed to making their workplace as safe as possible. Engaged employees do not hesitate to speak up if they witness unsafe conditions or actions because they know that they can raise concerns without fear of retaliation.
- Job hazard analysis and incident investigation. In order to protect employees from workplace hazards, you need to know what these hazards are. Job hazard analysis allows you to identify the hazards associated with the tasks your workers perform in order to identify appropriate protective measures. Similarly, following an incident, you need to be able to drill down to the root cause to determine what went wrong and how to prevent reoccurrences. An effective incident investigation program will allow you to do this.
- Policies and procedures. Policies and procedures are the backbone that supports a safety culture. Safety-related policies—for example, regarding the use of PPE or prohibiting horseplay—should be clear, in writing, and specify consequences for noncompliance. Procedures (such as those for lockout/tagout or emergency shutdown) should be written in easily understandable language that describes the subject in a step-by-step manner. Employees must be familiar with safety policies and procedures they are expected to follow and must be able to review them at any time.
- Training. In order to have a strong safety culture, employees need to receive high-quality training on the company’s safety policies and procedures, hazards they may be exposed to on the job, and safe work practices for protecting themselves against these hazards. Training must be in a language and vocabulary that workers can understand, and it must be provided to all workers, including temporary workers. Make sure to document training and keep track of when refresher training is necessary.
- Measurable goals and accountability. Safety culture cannot take hold in an organization without clearly defined goals and reliable metrics for assessing success in achieving these goals. A combination of leading and lagging indicators provides the most complete picture of an organization’s safety culture. Set challenging yet achievable safety goals and evaluate your progress towards those goals frequently, making adjustments as necessary.