Developing Your Culture

A safety culture should be a risk-free, profitable venture.

Anyone can write a safety program, but it takes a real commitment on the behalf of everyone involved to create and implement a complete safety culture. The goal of developing a safety culture is to instill the qualities that motivate workers to strive to achieve safety excellence and can be developed only if all on staff work together. Just as a group is only as strong as its weakest member, your staff is only as safe as the least-concerned worker. A safety culture creates an environment in which every worker is personally committed to his or her own safety as well as each colleague’s safety. A real safety culture is a complete change in attitude that becomes part of the individual’s lifestyle and daily habits, whether at home or at work.

Safety cultures are ever-evolving. Unlike safety programs, they are not one-time accomplishments. A safety culture is a philosophy to keep at the center of daily activity for everyone involved in your plant or project. Rather than simply writing a set of policies, procedures, and reports, it’s important for companies to include safety in the everyday mission and strategic plans. When it’s done properly, companies should implement the following strategies: safety programs, a drug-free workplace, risk management, accident investigations, continual training, material safety data updates, OSHA visits and assistance, and job site/plant inspections.

You can work hand-in-hand with a safety consulting company to assess your company’s need for a culture specific to your operation and to implement a safety culture that will exceed your goals for years to come.

Within a safety culture, safety must always come first and take into consideration everyone involved. Safety procedures must not simply be done in compliance in the hope of avoiding an accident, nor should accidents ever be seen as something that happens as a part of life. Accidents must always be viewed as preventable. Site audits of contractor projects and plant facilities should be completed for compliance and reported directly to management. This enables owners and managers to be proactive with their safety programs and provide input at the management level. In turn, employees are assured management is diligent in keeping their work sites safe. A proper safety culture should set the standard at zero accidents because setting a target that includes any at all actually condones accidents, and that is unacceptable.

Implementation of a safety culture is an ever-evolving commitment a company must make to consistently keep current staff on target, starting with new employees’ training. When working with a safety consulting firm, look for new-hire orientation programs that provide annual training required by OSHA for all current and prospective employees. The programs should be an annual requirement because they’re an excellent safety refresher course for even the most safety-conscious employee.

The consulting company should be a true partner working with you monthly to do regular safety culture checks on such things as ascertaining the average number of projects per year, amount of employee turnover, any special training to fit your market niche, and annual OSHA-required training. Another goal of your safety partner is to help lower your Experience Modification Rate.

EMR is a factor that measures the safety record of a company; understanding your EMR and monitoring it regularly is key in reducing your worker’s compensation costs. It is also an excellent measure of how your loss prevention and control practices stack up to others in your industry. Your safety consulting company should keep confidential loss-run insurance information and EMRs to help monitor and reduce accident exposures and potential increase in premiums when it comes time to renew business insurance the following year.

Develop the Best Standards
Safety should never be viewed as a business risk or cost. In fact, upon developing the best standards for your workplace, a safety culture should be a risk-free, profitable venture. By implementing and maintaining a real safety culture within your business, you should see your EMR drop considerably, resulting in reduced premiums. The modification rate is meant to adjust comp premiums with a company’s past experience with worker’s comp claims. The industry standard is 1.00, which, in general, is the average claims experience of similar-size employers operating in the same industry.

Generally speaking, a company with a mod rate less than 1.00 has had less claims experience than the average. Conversely, a company with more claims experience has a higher rate. The worker’s comp mode rate is calculated based on the company’s last three years of safety, accident, and claims data. (For example, a company with an EMR of 0.88 receives a 12 percent credit on its comp premiums, whiles a company with an EMR of 1.15 will be charged a surcharge of 15 percent on its premiums. A safety culture that produces lower EMRs provides a win/win situation at every turn.)

Above all, proper and continual education on safety is a prerequisite to developing a safety culture. When you need training, remember to work with an expert company that has implemented meaningful, pertinent, practical training sessions using innovative and attention-getting training tools.

This article originally appeared in the April 2009 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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