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Building a Safety Culture

Employee safety is a priority in any work environment - more so now than ever. Safety protects employees from injury and illness and allows them to focus on their jobs. It frees up valuable mental energy for innovation and problem-solving.

In some organizations, however, leaders value a safe workplace but do little to put those values into action. They may offer safety training, but they don't back up this training with a culture that values safety and respects its importance to the business's goals.

Why Build a Safety Culture?

A safety-focused culture offers several benefits to a company. The first, and most obvious, is that a company that values and follows safety protocols tends to experience fewer injury-related events, illnesses, and accidents - keeping staff healthier and allowing for a more consistent focus on the company's core goals.

Companies with strong safety cultures also build better reputations. They impress job seekers, who see them as good places to work and build a career. Within the company's teams, engagement tends to be higher, and staff are more committed to building and maintaining a productive, respectful culture.

Transforming company culture from "safety is a thing we do" to "safety is part of who we are" doesn't happen overnight. Yet leaders can begin taking steps toward this transformation at any time.

Communicate Safety as a Core Value

Start by communicating with teams about safety beyond regular training. Ask questions like:

  • How would you rate our company's commitment to safety?
  • Have you ever felt pressured to take a shortcut on safety in order to meet another goal, like getting the job done on time or under budget?
  • Which statement better represents your team's attitude toward safety: "Some injuries are just going to happen," or "We can prevent injuries from happening to our team"?

Questions like these allow company leadership to understand the organization's safety culture experienced by staff members. These questions reveal gaps in the company's safety culture, enabling leaders to focus on addressing their specific shortcomings.

Increase Accountability With Safety-Related Goals

Next, raise the bar on accountability. Set realistic safety goals and encourage staff to meet them.

By setting goals, managers demonstrate that they take safety rules and procedures seriously. They also demonstrate their confidence in their team's ability to implement their safety training in a way that allows them to meet their goals without risking injuries or illness transmission.

For workers, goal setting offers two benefits. First, it communicates that company leadership cares about their health and safety on the job. Second, safety goals provide a source of satisfaction to the team when they are met. They offer a concrete way for workers to see that their attention to safety has paid off.

Recognize and Reward Success

When safety goals offer no reward or payoff for their completion, they can feel like lip service to your team. Worse, they can feel like a punishment, especially if teams face negative consequences for failing to reach the goal but no positive results for succeeding.

Often, the best rewards for reaching safety goals are inexpensive or even free. Recognition of an individual's, team's, or department's safety successes contributes to building a stronger overall company culture when it comes to safety. Other workers, teams, and departments see that a commitment to safety is something to be celebrated. They also know that they can ask the recognition winners for help in improving their safety approach.

Work with an Ally in Culture Building

Building a safety culture depends on company leadership and management embracing safety as a core value. Yet leaders don't have to build this culture alone. A staffing firm can help company leadership with culture-building tasks, including:

  • Gathering information on safety in the industry.
  • Expressing the company's commitment to safety as a core value in job postings and other materials distributed to candidates.
  • Screening applicants for a commitment to job safety as a core value.

Recruiters handle many of the early hiring tasks so managers can focus on interviewing, building relationships, and choosing the people who will help develop the team's commitment to workplace safety, engagement, and mutual respect.