You’ve probably heard the term “Safety Culture” thrown around so often that you probably don’t even think about it.
But when you really mull it over, what is a safety culture, exactly? And what can you do to improve yours?
According to OSHA, a safety culture consists of the shared beliefs, practices, and attitudes regarding safety that exist at an establishment. Culture is the atmosphere created by those beliefs, attitudes, etc., which shape our behavior.
That’s great and all, but that definition probably has little meaning to your everyday business. So let’s break it down some more. A culture is the attitudes, assumptions, and normal behavior of the employees and managers of a company. So how you think about safety on a year-to-year, day-to-day, and minute-to-minute basis – as well as how your employees see it – is the main basis of a safety culture.
It’s the values held by the company, the myths or stories that go around the office, the policies and procedures put in place, and the supervisory priorities and responsibilities. Safety culture also includes the pressures on supervisors to produce quality versus quantity and to meet the bottom line, and the actions (or lack there of) to correct unsafe behaviors. Training and motivation, as well as employee involvement, are also major factors.
If you need some help analyzing your company culture, take a moment and use Safety Grader to help grade your current safety culture.
After analyzing your company’s culture, you may find it lacking in certain areas. For example, your workers may feel more pressure to meet production quantities than they do pressure to work safely. Or you may see that safety policies and procedures are either lax or nonexistent. Whatever issues your company is facing, there are ways to improve your safety culture.
Read one of our blogs about how construction companies can see ROI from implementing a safety program here.
First, there’s the immediate action. Strategic plans must be developed and implemented to fully integrate safety into all aspects of the organization. This doesn’t just mean in the field – office workers, drivers, and even executives must face the same high safety standards. And those executives and senior managers must also make efforts to regularly and actively review plan implementation and communicate those findings to all levels of the company.
A safety management information system, such as HCSS Safety, should be developed to facilitate training and meetings and document incidents and observations. This will give the organization a way to evaluate safety activities and measure their effectiveness and to aid in correcting errors and solving issues.
Ultimately, however, a safety culture is improved by winning over employees to understand that safety is in their hands. Everyone in the company, from the field to the office and beyond, should receive high-quality safety training that is relevant to their position and duties.
Improving the safety climate – how your company’s members view the effectiveness of current safety efforts – is perhaps the most important factor in improving the culture. The climate is measured via regular employee surveys, and what management does to address the findings of those surveys, and how the company addresses identified issues, is very important to how employees view the entire program. Quick action in making any necessary changes or improvements will win the hearts and minds of employees and give them a feeling of satisfaction with the safety program.
Here are a few other ways to improve your safety culture:
- The entire workforce must relentlessly pursue the identification and remediation of hazards as quickly as possible, with good communication around hazards.
- Employees at all levels must be comfortable stopping each other when at-risk behavior is observed and recognizing each other when safe behavior is observed. Positive reinforcement is essential to building safe habits.
- System causes, not people, must be recognized as the catalyst for near misses or incidents, and those causes must be uncovered and abolished.
- The fear of discipline, which drives under-reporting and stifles willing involvement in safety, must be removed from the culture and replaced with positive consequences that improve trust, morale, and productivity.
- The workforce must be characterized by good relationships and solid trust at all levels, so that employees feel free to speak openly and honestly.
- Safety must be integrated into day-to-day work, not treated as something separate to discuss at weekly meetings or shift changes.
- Successes must be celebrated often, not just on yearly safety records, in order to encourage excellence.
However you choose to improve your safety culture, know that targeted positive reinforcement leads to rapid change, which spreads through the company as employees begin to displayed desired behaviors and reinforce those behaviors in others.