Note: This part of a series of stories aimed at encouraging businesses to think proactively about safety.
What is a safety culture?
Unlike a safety program, which has a start and end date, a culture is a philosophy: How we live, how we think and how we act. Building a proactive safety culture is not impossible, but it does take time and commitment.
And Syndeo can help by assisting with safety audits and training.
Safety is an investment benefit just as any other benefit your company offers. Like any attractive benefit plan, a safety culture will improve employee retention by enhancing your reputation, lower the risk of litigation and regulatory visits by reduce accident frequency and DART (Days Away or Restricted Transfer) rates. A safety culture also will help manage insurance costs over time.
However, safety must not be a benefit from which to opt out. It requires participation from all levels. Your message about safety has to be consistent and must be sustained because it takes time for a culture to change. Safety impacts an organization’s day-to-day operations, including the people and the financial management. Therefore, safety must be an important component of any company’s corporate culture and a part of its vision and branding.
Leaders need to drive safety by being visibly committed and active participants. This will encourage team members at all levels to openly discuss safety issues, concerns and near misses, which will lead to better accident investigation and prevention.
As leaders, we need to provide the resources to achieve the results we desire. Based on my previous experience, once you give team members the empowerment breakthrough changes occur in the attitude of most. Once given the opportunity to be heard — and this results in positive punitive free results — team members will begin to identify hazards.
This will lead to a more satisfied work group and improve the work place and will achieve the overall goal to reduce accidents and workers’ compensation claims. A safety culture is not merely a collection of policies and programs and making sure we have proper personal protective equipment. Yes, these are all components of a safety culture, tools that can help reduce risks and ensure compliance.
We can’t ask team members to perform a job and not give them the proper tools to be successful. A safety culture requires change, change that promotes health and well-being. How we communicate that change is important in succeeding.
Despite the best of efforts, we are not going to have an incident-free work place. Incidents will occur, but we can minimize the severity of incidents but not one person or a group of people can do it alone.
Safety is everyone’s responsibility, starting from the top down. We need to adopt a safety culture that is proactive, not reactive, and includes strategic planning and action. Action that includes participation from top-level ownership, middle and front line supervisors and employees. This should encourage a “find-and-fix-it” approach to hazards.
Safety doesn’t have to be complicated to be successful. It needs to be simple and informative. When you change a culture, this will decrease our incidents and injuries, reduce costs, improve regulatory compliance and enhance the company’s overall business operation.
We need to encourage team members to work toward change. Fostering a successful safety culture is a company wide effort, and today I ask for your commitment to safety.
~Michelle Cadena, Risk Manager Syndeo