The term “workplace culture” has become a bit of a trend in the workplace since more and more millenials started to make their way into the professional world. But it’s more than just a fancy word – it’s the system on which your entire organization functions. Safety culture does include safety systems and policies, but it is so much more than that; it also includes the attitudes and behavior of everyone working within your organization. It applies to every tier of employees, from line workers to supervisors to managers to the heads of departments.
A positive safety culture within the organization is essential for the productivity of employees, and in the long run, the growth of the company.
The idea of revamping the safety culture of your organization can seem as impossible as moving a mountain. While accidents and injuries and illnesses may be a frequent occurrence in your current system, the idea of change can somehow seem even scarier. But trust us when we say this; the change to a positive safety culture will be worth dealing with the transition phase.
Top Tips for Building a Lasting Positive Safety Culture
Here are some basic pointers to get you started on this road to change:
1. Communication is Key
It’s all well and good to set up safety policies and programs, but after their initial training, employees will either forget them or forget about their importance and will relapse into their usual lax attitude toward safety. Ideally, whether your company has a separate health and safety department, or it’s a subgroup within the HR Department, monthly, or even weekly sessions should be conducted as reminders.
Speak to your employees in their language – have the employees with the best safety (or productivity) record for the month give the safety talk to encourage other employees to amp up their performance.
If weekly talks aren’t possible due to limited time, keep them at least once a month. Send frequent reminder emails about the best safety practices, and if you feel like your emails are becoming redundant, set up a reward system (discussed in the coming section).
It’s not enough to provide your employees with safety rules, regulations, and policies. Trained employees are likely to understand the importance of safety more readily and will make a conscious effort to stay away from safety hazards. These can include not smoking within the office confines except in the designated smoking space, wearing hard hats and safety glasses in the factory, etc.
Reinforce key messages from the training sessions through posters around the office and emails.
3. Walk the Walk
Whatever policies are in place, they aren’t just meant for lower-tier workers; rather, it is the duty of the higher management to promote this positive safety culture. By observing their superiors, employees will develop a positive attitude toward a safety culture and will be likely to emulate their behavior. Workers won’t be keen on policies that aren’t being followed.
4. Implementing a Recognition & Reward System
Set up a system that will encourage employees to come forward and report any hazards or safety concerns around the workplace. This can also include an anonymous digital form since employees might be afraid to make a complaint if they fear their name will be known too. Reporting safety hazards anonymously will make employees feel more comfortable within their workplace, which is also likely to reduce employee turnover.
Apart from this, you can set up a reward system for employees who manage to stay away from accidents and illnesses for a certain time duration, such as cashable sick leaves, bonuses, etc.
It’ll be impossible to gauge just how effective your system is if you’re not measuring it. Some factors that need to be kept an eye on include a change in employee behavior, the overall percentage of incidents (and how they change over time), getting a final value for the level of compliance, the employees’ level of happiness, and the overall improved safety in the workplace.
6. Make it a 2-Way Road
Involve your employees in the transition to a positive safety culture. Ask them what the process of reporting safety hazards should be like, get feedback on the existing system, and find out what motivates them to follow the safety policies in place.
Employees are likely to thrive in the safety culture if they know and feel that they are part of the process.
Taking the First Step towards a Positive Safety Culture
The change to having a strong safety culture within your organization doesn’t have to be implemented on a mass-scale in one go. You can start with a single production plant – perhaps the one which had the highest reported percentage of accidents and injuries. Treat it as the test phase, where, over time, you can observe how this safety hazard percentage reduces before implementing those policies in other plants.
The move to a complete safety culture that encompasses the entire organization will be a long-term process and may even take years to implement fully, depending on the scale of your operations.
Safety is an Ongoing Process
With changing times, new hazards and safety requirements keep coming to light. Whether you outsource it or designate employees to keep track of global and industrial safety trends, it is important to ensure that your organization stays up-to-date with the safety requirements of the industry. A constantly improving safety system is likely to assure employees that the organization cares about their well-being. This will build a positive attitude towards a safety culture, which will, in turn, impact your employees’ behavior.