Achieving a safety culture can be easier said than done if you don't have the framework in place. In a BLR webinar titled "Injury and Incident Prevention at Work: Good for Employees, Employers, and Your Bottom Line," Wayne Vanderhoof, CSP, outlined some aspects about corporate culture that you will need to face, what constitutes a strong safety culture, and how to bring about cultural change.
A corporate culture includes all aspects of the way things are done in the company (including company values, beliefs, and attitude). It may be written or undocumented, formal or informal, blatant or underground, segmented or departmentalized, but it is there even if it is not obvious on the surface. Understanding your corporate culture can be the first step to implementing a strong safety culture within it.
A strong safety culture includes:
- High level of awareness for safety.
- Encourages and values employee involvement.
- Commitment from both management and workers.
- An attitude that there is only one way to do the task: safely.
- Safety is not “#1” or the “top priority.” Instead, safety is a core value along with production, sales, customer service and quality. Priorities change, values do not.
A strong safety culture must have employee buy-in. You may need to start small to achieve this. Start by focusing on compliance issues, and move toward having an environment where workplace hazards are proactively identified by workers. You will need to communicate often and communicate well. Consider using many means of communication, such as newsletters, bulletin boards, and posters. Explain to employees that they can be involved many ways, such as participation in the safety committee, inspections, or in conducting a job hazard analysis (JHA). In all of your communications be sure to be consistent. Also be sure that actions are consistent with words.
At the beginning of the culture change you should:
- Begin to show a slightly higher level of safety awareness
- Address physical hazards
- Ensure you have basic safety procedures, safety posters and warning signs
As more time and commitment are devoted to the cultural shift:
- Develop safety recognition and incentive programs
- Safety committees are started
Later, as the culture change progresses:
- Safety professional is utilized
- Full-time Safety Director may be brought on
- Utilize a consultant
- More resources provided for accident investigations and safety training
- Accountability systems are implemented
- Safety goals are aligned with business goals
- Metrics are measured
Once the cultural change is more complete and the environment is truly changing:
- Safety becomes everyone's responsibility, not just the safety director's
- Safety is a core value of the organization
- Safety is an integral part of operations
- Management and employees are committed and involved in preventing losses
- Continuously improving the culture
Wayne Vanderhoof, CSP, is the president of RJR Safety, Inc. (www.rjrsafety.com) Vanderhoof has more than twenty years of experience in safety and health beginning with petrochemical plant design. Former positions included Safety, Health and Environment Coordinator for an engineering design company, Safety and Health Project Coordinator for an engineering consulting company, and Operations Safety Coordinator and Training Coordinator in the plastics industry. He is a Certified Safety Professional (CSP) and a Professional Member of the American Society of Safety Engineers. He is also an OSHA Authorized Instructor, PEC Certified Instructor, and Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S) Instructor.
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