The safety culture in your organization can play an incredibly important role in improving overall workplace safety. It's the way people approach risk in the workplace, including their perceptions and attitudes that can help make the workplace safer, and organizations need to make sure that they take appropriate steps to improve it.
Safety culture can primarily be referred to as the way employees approach different tasks in the workplace and how they factor safety into it.
Changing the safety culture of an organization can be difficult and is not a simple task. However, safety culture stands as a pillar in your overall health and safety program and is vital for the success of all health and safety related achievements. To do so, steps must be put in place to alter the attitudes, behaviors and norms of the organization's employees.
Here are 5 steps to help change the safety culture of your organization:
1. Commitment and Communication
Both are key aspects to a successful and positive safety culture in the workplace. Firstly, commitment is an essential element that requires an organization's top management to take steps to ensure safe operations in the work environment.
To do so, it's important to approach situations with facts and statistics. Present top management with tangible benefits which they can see a return on their investment e.g. employee welfare, reduction in absenteeism, better reporting and a clearer picture of current issues. Approach with clear and reachable goals. Ideally, you would like to have a commitment to ensuring ZERO harm within all operations and a promise that everything will be done for all employees and contractors to return home safely.
Communication across all levels can aid the transition to a safer workplace culture. A great way to increase safety communication is to hold regular safety talks on topical and relevant safety news in your industry. Real-life examples of the consequence of poor safety culture can often catch the attention of some. Making your company safety policy readily available to your employees can help with the implementation of expectations and best practices when it comes to the completion of safe work.
2. Lead by Example
It is paramount that you lead by example; following all safety policies will engage your employees and encourage them to do the same. If management are willing to commit to safety, employees will follow suit.
Employee buy-in is crucial to have a positive safety culture. Implementing a clear accountability process can aid a positive safety culture. Having responsible persons for health and safety procedures can help with accountability and promote the metrics of leading by example. An example of this would be the capabilities of dealing with a crisis and learning from them through a strong safety culture.
Organizations with strong safety cultures understand that emergencies and incidents could occur at any time and have robust systems in place to immediately deal with them. They have effective methods of communicating those incidents internally and have the methodologies and the know-how to investigate and understand their root causes. Most importantly, they lead by example by learning from these incidents and ensuring it never happens again.
When developing or revising safety policies, make sure that you involve employees throughout the process. This not only ensures that their voices are heard, but it also helps them understand why certain measures have been put in place and how they can contribute to a culture of safety within the organization.
Take a look at our 7 Ways to Engage Employees in Health and Safety article for more tips.
3. Develop and Implement a Positive Reporting Process
Developing a positive association with reporting health and safety issues is essential to improving your organization's safety culture. One way to promote this is to develop an appraisal system by rewarding employees who report safety hazards (physical hazards, chemical hazards, mental hazards) or concerns.
A positive safety culture will be much easier to build and maintain when employees feel comfortable reporting concerns and believe that the reporting process is positive. Facilitating employees to engage in good catch or near miss reporting can prevent serious incidents from occurring.
Companies with strong safety cultures are open to change and are always seeking the best method to ensure safety management is done efficiently. These organizations research technologies such as incident reporting, behavioral observations, accident investigations, training and many more, to determine which could provide the best return on investment.
Recognizing individual achievements when it comes to safety compliance is another great way to encourage employees and foster positive change throughout the organization. Provide incentives such as rewards or recognition certificates when someone goes above-and-beyond with their efforts towards creating a safe working environment—this will show them (and everyone else) how much their work is appreciated which can go a long way towards motivating others too!
4. Provide Training
Investment in employees' safety training and correct techniques demonstrates your commitment to safety. Effective safety cultures require strong health and safety competencies. This must begin immediately when an employee joins the organization and is on-boarded, and again during refresher training and updating skills. Trained employees also embrace safety culture more readily because they are aware of hazards and the effect that they can have on maintaining workplace safety.
In addition to having good technical competencies, providing training from supervisors puts a strong emphasis on leadership, initiative and an out-of-the-box style of thinking. To make sure their safety culture is consistently maintained, you must ensure that supervisors have the right leadership attributes to coach their staff and to maintain the correct safety behavior. EcoOnline provides a variety of online training courses for companies in a wide range of industries including healthcare, pharmaceutical, chemical and food manufacturing.
It is important that all employees are aware of their role in creating a safe working environment and know how they can contribute to achieving safety goals. Create training programs or workshops that focus on safety topics such as risk identification, hazard control measures, emergency preparedness, and incident reporting procedures. Make sure that everyone has access to these resources so they can stay informed and up-to-date on best practices.
Regularly scheduled safety meetings are an effective way for management to communicate new policies or procedures, review existing ones, discuss incident reports, assess risk levels, identify areas for improvement, etc.
Make sure all meeting minutes are documented so there is a record of what was discussed at each meeting and decisions made by management regarding any identified risks or hazards. This documentation can be used as evidence if needed during an audit or investigation later on down the line.
5. Involve Employees
Building and maintaining safety culture starts from the ground up. Another way to build strong employee buy-in is to involve them in the process. Establishing a safety committee with employees from all areas of your organization can ensure different opinions and issues are raised. The group decisions from health and safety committees have a big influence on the overall direction of the organization when it comes to safety initiatives.
It's also important to provide resources such as posters, handbooks, videos or online courses which can help reinforce the importance of following safety guidelines in the workplace. Additionally, providing access to external resources such as regulatory bodies can help ensure everyone understands the legal requirements for creating a safe working environment within the organization.
Some of the more established committees make decisions on how and where health and safety budgets are required to be spent. Contribution of individuals are noted, and action items are designated to individuals within the committee itself for follow ups. Good management and frequency are vital for the success of the committee.
EcoOnline's EHS platform can help you strengthen safety culture at your organization. Curious to learn more about our digital solution?