safety

Every workplace has a safety culture – it’s just the strength or weakness that varies. While workers general well-being is covered by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, and required procedures, rules and equipment are all defined, there’s so much more to applying the law.

At a deeper level, “safety culture” is a company-wide attitude towards occupational health and safety. If it’s strong, it means everyone, from the Chief Executive Officer to the workers on the factory floor, know and adhere to the protocols that are in place.

This kind of culture speaks, importantly, to how much respect employees have for themselves, their colleagues and their employers and is also linked to how united an organization feels to every staff member. In addition, research has shown that work safety leads to greater productivity.

In short, strengthening the safety culture of your company has several benefits and is strongly recommended to all business owners. If you’d like to do just that and are wondering how to go about it, read on below.

Engage Employees from the Start

Remember, any corporate culture should involve your whole team. Your employees will feel valued and empowered and will be motivated to give their best when it comes to safety – and to everything else. Discuss the situation with them and create a dedicated health and safety task force.

Setting concrete goals at this point can also be very helpful. For example, how many days do you want your workers to go without a single injury? Or, how low do you want the total number of accidents in a year to be? How many safety courses do you think your employees should go on?

Research and Recognize Where You Are

You can only really decide how to proceed once you have an accurate understanding of the current situation, so find out everything you can. Check historic Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) recordables, employee training hours, safety courses completed, incident reports (looking at both frequency and severity) and current safety plans.

Qualitative data is as important as the quantitative metrics, so interview as many employees as possible for personal reports of what happens on the office or factory floor, and opinions of what should be changed. This is another key moment within the overall process to involve and empower your workers.

Identify Risks and Develop Policies

Once you’ve collected all the relevant information, sit and review it as methodically as possible. Create a company vision, identify risks and look at all possible solutions, discussing the situation with your safety task force before making any final decisions. Articulate that safety is a core value of your business to really cement it as part of your overall corporate culture.

The protocols that you create now should be comprehensive and focus less on reviewing incidents to apportion blame and more on preventing similar events in the future. Taking the emphasis off identifying and punishing a guilty party will also encourage staff to be more honest in reporting incidents.

Overall, try to create policies that are as transparent as possible and hold people accountable for wearing the right protective equipment and following the correct procedures. For example, a particularly hazardous task might require two managers rather than one to sign off on completion.

Make multiple options for reporting and managing available so that people can do so in the way that is most comfortable and convenient for them. With technological advances, a lot of this can now be done online, streamlining the entire process and making monitoring and record capturing much simpler.

Review and Refine Regularly

The best way for a small business to operate in all matters is with as much flexibility as possible. If the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown measures have shown us anything, it’s that companies need to be able to pivot and adjust to market changes if they want to survive.

In the same way, the rules and regulations set up for health and safety are not written in stone. Review them regularly by checking all the same measures you first obtained in your research and seeing if the numbers have changed.

Any new manufacturing or other processes that your organization undertakes will require that additional regulations be drawn up. And if unforeseen situations arise you may need to change or increase your response.

With COVID-19, once people are allowed to return to work, they’ll probably still have to practice social distancing and specific rules will need to be formulated for standing far enough apart and wearing masks correctly. The distancing requirements could also mean that some accident response plans will need to be amended.

Leave existing protocols in place if they are working well and change or update them if they’re not. Feedback from staff is as imperative here as in your initial data gathering, and once again offers the opportunity to involve your employees and make them part of a company-wide safety culture.

If you make changes to rules ensure that everyone is not only informed of them, but reminded of them regularly. If you have a high traffic area where you have displayed compliance posters, add large signs outlining the new regulations so that everyone takes cognizance of them.

Introduce and Maintain Incentives

The goals that you set with your workforce at the beginning of your drive to develop safety culture are the perfect vehicle to keep staff motivated. If your organization manages to reach one of the objectives, reward your team with a staff dinner, gift cards, or whatever else seems appropriate to the situation.

Don’t sit back once you’ve reached a goal; set incentives for new aims or for simply maintaining the same level of excellence. If you’ve managed to reduce the number of accidents to zero, for instance, that should be recognized on a regular basis and not just the first time it happens.

The rewards will boost morale and motivate your employees to keep working towards and maintaining their occupational health and safety performance. In turn, this will become an integral part of your business’s atmosphere and culture.

The importance of a strong safety culture cannot be overstated. By fostering positive attitudes and taking proactive steps, businesses can reduce risks and limit workplace accidents.

With a passion for writing, Megan Hudson is a freelance writer that writes for a few publications including Resourceful Compliance, a website devoted to keeping workplaces compliant. When she’s not typing away, Megan spends her free time learning the scores of her favorite Broadway musicals on the piano.

Safety culture stock photo by arka38/Shutterstock