The Importance of Developing a Safety Culture
By: Antonio Arzate, Consultant – Loss Control Services
February 17, 2015 – Is the safety of your employees important to you? Is the safety of your employees important to their spouse, children, and family? I hope that the answer to the last two questions is an emphatic yes!
If your safety program is structured solely in focusing on compliance of regulations, you will get very different results then if your program is anchored with a commitment for doing what is right, not just what is regulated. Here is a key question: Do you have the right Safety Culture in place to support your safety program and desired safety results?
You can have all of the elements of a world-class safety program such as policies and procedures, reports and logs, training, equipment, audits and inspections, hazard assessments, injury investigations, management involvement, metrics and goals, and other items in place, but if you do not have the right Safety Culture in place, your outcome will be sub optimal.
People do not intentionally injure themselves, but injuries are the unintended consequence of people’s actions. Developing a safety culture really goes beyond the basics and looks at how your employees approach their job. Are they in automatic mode and not thinking of the task at hand or did they take the time to think through the hazards associated with completing the task and take the effort to avoid the hazards and injury? Do they have the mindset that work is tough and we know eventually we will get hurt because it’s part of the job? Have they been active is safety or are they avoiding an injury by sheer luck?
Whether the answers to these questions are yes or no, you might be hearing things like “no one trained me how to do my job,” or “most of the time we don’t have the proper PPE,” or “my job requires me to be at elevated open spaces and I never use fall protection because it gets in the way of my job, or “We work around sharp objects or with equipment with numerous pinch points, use different cleaning chemicals/solvents or our work requires repetitive motion or lifting”. These are common attitudes among workers who do not participate in an active safety culture. You might not hear these exact words or any, but the injury data might tell you this is the employee attitude and thought process.
Culture is defined as: What people do and why they do it. ‘What’ they do is the behavior or action people display or take in completing a task or assignment. The ‘Why’ they do it is getting at the root of the organization culture. Establishing the right Safety Culture must not be approached as a program and it definitely cannot be perceived as ‘the flavor of the month.’ Culture cannot be changed overnight. It truly is a long-term proposition that must become a way of life. It requires communication and reinforcement along with management commitment and involvement. Establishing the right Safety Culture can produce improved safety results and can also lead to overall enhanced performance.
Your organization’s Safety Culture produces your safety results. If you want improved results, you cannot expect to achieve them without strong culture. You need to develop a new desired culture to achieve your new desired safety results. Always Remember, “Accidents hurt – Safety doesn’t.”
If you have questions, or wish to discuss this topic in more detail, please contact me at 800.880.6689 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.