Companies should establish values and behaviors that help overall safety at the workplace.
All businesses need to take reasonable efforts to ensure the safety and physical well-being of their employees, but maintaining high standards of safety becomes even more important — and even more challenging — when you have employees working in the field, going to different locations and addressing unique environmental challenges.
That’s why it’s critical for business owners and team leaders to create cultures of safety. Note that a safety culture is different than a safety program. A program has start and end dates. A culture is a set of values and behaviors that are intrinsic to the company itself and are ongoing.
DEVELOPING A CULTURE OF SAFETY
Developing a culture of safety means fostering a mindset and an array of habits that all of your employees can buy into, doing everything possible to keep each team member safe and well.
The question is, how exactly is a safety culture built?
Set a safety vision. What are your goals for company safety? What would a culture of safety look like to you? Think about it, put it into words and share your vision with all team members — preferably in written form. This gives everyone a common goal to work toward.
Define individual responsibilities. What are your expectations for each employee? What are the policies, goals and daily tasks that each employee must carry out to help you reach your safety goal? Define these with specificity.
Get opinions. Ask your employees what they think about your company’s safety standards. Specifically ask if there are any areas in which they feel unsafe or uncertain, and solicit any feedback for improving safety policies.
Report problems. Condition your team members to report any accidents or first-aid issues that arise. A formal reporting process can help you spot trends and perhaps take action to prevent future incidents.
Educate your employees. If there are specific safety issues intrinsic to your industry or your environment, provide employees with some educational resources. Make sure there is awareness about the issues your employees face.
Remove competing priorities. To have a true culture of safety, you have to make safety the foremost priority — 100 percent of the time. If productivity quotas are compromising safety, then they need to be changed, plain and simple.
Add an accountability system. Ideally, you will have a system in place to hold employees accountable for violations of your safety policies.
Lead by example. In the end, your safety culture will only be effective if you get buy-in from your people. They have to care about it, and see the importance — and they will do so only if they see that you care about it.
MAKING SAFETY YOUR MISSION
Safety cannot be an afterthought. Rather, it has to be something that your organization is committed to at every level — starting at the very top. Building a safety culture won’t change anything overnight, but it is a great way to invest in the health and well-being of your team over time.