Learn how to save lives and reduce accidents at work.
A serious workplace accident or death doesn’t come without warning, but being able to read the warning signs appears to be an art many workplaces across the globe seem to lack, or management simply chooses to ignore.
This is evidenced by the fact that after an incident, investigations show in case after case that, “There were a number of practical steps that were open to the company which would have prevented the incident”. Companies are still being fined in the courts for their lapses, but this does little to enhance their ability to see the warning signs.
It is well proven that even exceptional compliance with all the right processes, safety equipment, and safety audits, can be quickly undone by an ineffective and weak safety culture.
Recognising early warning signs that a safety culture is not as good as it could be, may mean the difference between taking proactive corrective action, or having to suddenly react to an incident where someone is seriously harmed, and the focus is once again diverted to repercussions, and blame.
So what are some actions you can take to improve your business’s health and safety culture? Here are just ten ideas:
- Health and safety culture starts with leadership. Ask your most senior managers to make sure that any employee or contractor understands that when they step come to your workplace they:
- are told that they are coming onto the safest workplace in the industry. (Why would you invite them to step onto the second, third, or tenth safest workplace?)
- are told why it is so safe
- are told what is expected of them
- are told about the key safety beliefs of the company
- are told the company is only interested in working with others who share their health and safety values
- are told that if they cannot support the company’s health and safety practices and culture, they should leave.During recruitment, screen front-line supervisors carefully, they are the ones who will support, mentor, and help employees live your safety culture, or not.
- Measure your health and safety culture. Even our preliminary, and simple, Safety Culture Litmus Test will signal if the safety culture is a risk factor.
- No accountant would ever guess the financial status of a business, nor should anyone try to guess something as important as safety culture.
- Identify and remedy hazards. All of them. Your entire workforce should be identifying, resolving, and be communicating about hazards. Being pro-active makes for a safer environment, and builds employee engagement.
- Recognise and reinforce behaviour consistent with the desired culture. For example, ensure everyone is comfortable stopping at-risk behaviours no matter where it occurs.
- Be tough on problems, not on people. Avoid the rush to blame – it is usually systems and practices that inadvertently encourage risky behaviours.
- Build a ‘Just and leaning culture’. Learning from mis-takes helps employees become more proactive, removes fear of unfair discipline, and helps build teamwork, productivity and trust.
- Make health and safety a strategic business advantage. Effective health and safety is strongly indicative of an effectively managed business. The best customers, best employees, and best business investors are actively interested in the quality of leadership and management.
- Encourage employees to speak-up; to question things that don’t work for them; to speak openly about things that need to change; and explore ways to resolve problems alongside management.
- Ensure health and safety is considered within every strategic and operational decision.
If an effective safety culture is a core value, then it has to hold hands with the core value of caring for those you work with. Unfortunately these sorts of ‘values’ are often regarded by some managers as “the warm fuzzy stuff”, in fact nothing could be further from the truth. Working with people, influencing them to engage and change is the toughest, most courageous work any manager has to undertake. Dismissing that as warm and fuzzy is simply a cop out.
There is plenty of evidence that businesses that genuinely care for their employee’s wellbeing enjoy high levels of employee satisfaction and consequently customer satisfaction. This shows up as better productivity and profitability. An effective safety culture is not only the catalyst for improved safety, but also for improved efficiency, quality, service and delighted customers.
Your safety culture serves as an excellent warning signal not only for the safety of your most important asset, but also to forewarn whether half your employees are, in effect, sitting in the departure lounge waiting for a better and more caring employer. The art of seeing the warning signals starts with measurement, so then potential risk can be managed and resolved. It does not start with crisis and then the question “What do we do now?”