Each year in the United States, more than 4,500 people die at work, and over 4.1 million experience a debilitating work-related illness or injury. Job hazards are more obvious at some workplaces than at others, but even in offices, workers can suffer from the health hazards of sitting all day. Few things are more frustrating than to lose an employee for an indefinite period of time due to illness or injury, especially when those illnesses and injuries can be prevented.
The best way to keep your workers safe and healthy is to nurture a culture of safety in the workplace. A safety culture can help keep your employees mindful of safety practices and committed to one another’s safety. Creating a safety culture is far more comprehensive and far-reaching than a mere safety program; when your company has a strong safety culture, your employees will feel responsible for staying safe and keeping one another safe, and will not only go above and beyond to identify unsafe behaviors, but to step in and do something about them.
A Safety Culture Is Not a Safety Program
The main difference between a safety culture and a safety program is that, while a safety program has a clearly defined beginning and end, a safety culture is a philosophy that infiltrates every aspect of the organization. In order for safety to become a true priority in the workplace, it must occupy a fundamental place in the company culture.
According to OSHA, a safety culture consists of a set of values and practices shared by all members of an organization. Managers and supervisors have as big a role to play in establishing and maintaining a safety culture as any other employees. Everyone must feel motivated to participate in a safety culture, and to intervene to put an end to unsafe behaviors. Even if it’s the CEO not wearing a hardhat or barreling at top speed toward a stretch of wet floor, every employee should feel comfortable — and honor-bound to — say something.
As a result, companies that have strong safety cultures experience fewer injuries and illnesses, lower absenteeism, and lower turn-over. Workers are more productive. The company itself may often be a leader in its industry.
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Build Your Company’s Safety Culture
Building a safety culture at your own company is a worthwhile goal, but it’s one that takes time. Often, it can take years for a culture of safety to fully take hold in a company. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth it to work towards a company safety culture.
Start by building awareness of safety concerns at all levels of the organization. Posters and warning signs are a good first step. As time passes, you should move toward addressing physical and other safety hazards in your workplace, and develop incentive and recognition programs, committees, and other foundational aspects of safety culture. HSE Consultancy can help you develop a workable strategy for your transition to a safer company culture, whether you’re in the initial stages of building a safety culture, or whether you’re further along and wondering what to do next.
Everyone at the company must be committed to a culture of safety, from the top down. This way, you’re not pitting safety against other important business goals like profitability or productivity. Get leadership on board with the need to develop a safety culture. You might achieve this by underscoring how developing a safety culture can curb financial losses due to work-related illness and injury. Ask management to create a partnership with employees that will enable collaboration as everyone works towards a safer company culture.
You’ll need to establish a company safety committee that can guide efforts to nurture a safety culture. Identify processes that can help improve the company’s safety culture. Roles will need to be defined and a system of accountability will need to be implemented. You’ll need a way to measure quantifiable aspects of safety, such as the number of hazards reported and corrected, the number of equipment checks and reviews conducted, or the number of incentives awarded.
Building safety culture at your company is about much more than simply hanging a few posters and rounding everyone up for safety program. A true culture of safety encourages everyone in your company to be mindful of safety at all times, and to take responsibility for themselves and one another. When safety is part of the foundation of your company’s culture, your entire organization will thrive.