Is Your Organization Ready to Build a Culture of Safety?
Six steps to turning your safety program into a safety culture.
- By Donna Chrobak
- Sep 01, 2019
Safety in the workplace has long been a priority for all types of organizations. In manufacturing or construction environments, where employees work with heavy machinery, automation, or warehousing, potential safety hazards are more obvious. In an office environment, the safety hazards may not be as easy to detect, but they are potentially just as dangerous.
Many hazards, such as trips or falling, fire, and stress, can exist in any environment. The risk of these may be greater in one environment than the other, but there are potential safety issues in all of them. Other hazards, such as being hurt by machinery or getting hit by a moving vehicle are more likely to happen in certain environments versus others (your chances of getting hit by a moving vehicle in an office environment, while not impossible, is highly unlikely). Regardless of the environment, where there are people, there are potential safety hazards, and each should be addressed by your organization’s safety strategy.
How then, can you build an effective safety program when the potential safety hazards in any given environment can be so different? How do you build a program that permeates throughout your organization, no matter where employees are located? How do you create a standard of safety that employees will embrace and practice with regularity?
The answer is that you start by building a culture of safety. Using a safety incentive program can help drive engagement, communication, and safe behavior that is aligned with the organizational culture. Here are six key steps to help you determine if your organization is ready to build a culture of safety, and how to get the ball rolling.
Know When your Organization is Ready
Most organizations today understand the growing importance of a strong culture, and the role an effective safety program can play. Many, however, misunderstand the importance organizational readiness plays in the success of these initiatives. Safety must go beyond simply ensuring compliance with safe working practices—it should be a daily commitment that is made by everyone in the organization, from the CEO on down, to work safely and watch out for one another.
Before you begin creating your safety program strategy or looking for a partner to help you build your solution, engage all key stakeholders and relevant departments or business units that may be impacted. Gather perceptions and insights from all so you can assess whether your organization is ready to engage and execute at every level.
Get Executives to Buy-in
Studies show that when senior executives are actively involved in supporting the employee engagement and recognition strategy, the organization is more likely to realize stronger business results. Most executives see employees as their highest cost; and they are correct.
However, using data to illustrate the “why” is a key element to gaining executive buy-in. This can include higher safety training scores, reduction in lost time due to workplace accidents, and higher awareness of safety regulations, ROI for financial leaders, engagement and employee experience for HR leaders, and overall organizational performance for the C-Suite. Providing evidence of the outcomes that can be achieved from a safety recognition strategy that engages and aligns employees is critical to securing executive buy-in and helps ensure success down the road.
Recognition Road Map
Defining a safety recognition strategy is necessary to win in today’s competitive business environment. Traditional “old-school” strategies are no longer effective regarding engagement, alignment, and recognition, and will disengage employees with meaningless and untimely communication, recognition and rewards. Creating a modern recognition strategy that gets (and keeps) employees engaged, aligns their behavior with organizational goals and objectives, and recognizes your employees, will help avoid the downsides of old school programs.
A consolidated and well thought out program eliminates manual administration processes and provides valuable insight to help you make better business decisions. Your winning strategy must be transparent and, at every step of the way, aligned to your overall vision, culture, and safety goals.
Effective Program Design
It sounds easy; but you must understand where to begin and define a time frame for launch. Before planning changes, you must stop and ask, “What does our current employee engagement and safety strategy look like? Do we even have a strategy in place?
Once you have a “map” of what your organization is currently doing, you can begin to identify gaps and see where changes or improvements need to occur. Align recognition to business goals and core values. Make sure you are clear on what precisely you are trying to achieve and have specific business outcomes defined.
Successfully Implementing Your Program
What does your company’s organization chart look like? How many countries does your company operate in? How many employees are in each location? How many languages do your employees speak? Can you ensure equitable rewards that automatically conform to standard of living? Will you be able to offer secure access, and full operability to all of your employees around the country and world via web and mobile applications?
Got that all down? What about a communication launch plan? How do you communicate with your employees? Will they access the program(s) through a company intranet site? What is the plan to get and keep them engaged? How do you get employees to make safety a daily, personal commitment? These are all things that must be considered for a successful launch. Make sure you allot time for a well-planned implementation and launch. If at first, you don’t succeed—you’ve lost their attention.
Performance Measurement: The ROI of Recognition
Once your employee safety strategy is defined and has buy-in from senior executives, you will have the opportunity to transform your company by creating a culture of safety that promotes strong engagement and alignment to organizational safety standards. You’ll create efficiencies and cost savings as well as begin to see performance results. You will build a reputation as a top employer that cares about the safety and well-being of its employees. This will attract and retain the best talent. Use this information to make the case that your current investment in safety recognition or rewards can be better spent and deliver more impact and ROI.
Creating a culture of safety requires understanding the hazards in your working environments, defining processes for minimizing the risk of accidents, and creating a culture of safe working and reciprocal protection between employees.
This article originally appeared in the September 2019 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.