11 Actionable ideas to improve safety culture in the workplace
Investing in improving safety culture is a safe bet for increasing productivity in your operations by decreasing costly interruptions caused by incidents.
Signs of a poor safety culture
An organization’s safety culture exists when employees at all levels share the goal to protect everyone from safety and health hazards. A poor safety culture occurs if only leadership or only line employees practice safe habits in the workplace. A strong safety culture depends on everyone in the company understanding that safety is a critical component to quality, productivity, and costs.
Signs of a poor safety culture include:
- Widespread safety rule noncompliance
- OSHA citations
- Experience Modification Rate more than 1.0 and elevated workers’ compensation insurance costs
- Inability to obtain contracts due to safety programs and company loss experience
- Failure to comply with the company’s safety procedures
- Managers who put production or cost before safety
Ideas to improve safety culture in the workplace
- Ask the right questions. Employees are key to obtaining useful information about the success and adherence to safety programs. Employees are excellent resources regarding whether the company enables practicing the safety culture. The top safety cultures consider employees key to the company’s success.
- Look for employee leaders within your organization. Informal leaders have the respect of their fellow employees. Ask the leaders to join the Safety Committee and participate in safety initiatives, such as hazard assessments.
- Perform a Risk/Hazard Assessment. A hazard assessment is an evaluation of a workplace for safety hazards. Per OSHA “an effective program systematically identifies, evaluates, and prevents or controls general workplace hazards, specific job hazards, and those potential hazards which may arise from foreseeable conditions.”
- Perform a gap analysis. Check OSHA’s requirements for safety programs and required training. The hazard assessment and OSHA’s website will help identify deficiencies in your overall safety program. Download the Existing Standards Crosswalk to identify the standards your business is subject to.
- Analyze accident history. Look up Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) annual injury reports for injury and lost time injury data for your industry for the previous five years. Compare your annual 300A reports to the BLS data. Utilize your workers’ compensation provider to analyze accident data looking for trends. Ask your provider to provide your annual Experience Modification Rate (EMR) for the last five years. Is the EMR going up or down? Your goal should be EMR < 1.0.
- Analyze past OSHA and regulatory citations. Determine if any citations have been permanently addressed. If not, fix the equipment or reimplement the relevant safety program. Inspection and citation data can be find with OSHA.
- Form a working Safety Committee consisting of managers, supervisors, and hourly employees. Give the committee time and money to address identified safety deficiencies.
- Implement a safety incident reporting system. The system should include near misses, good catches, injuries, and property damage. Define actions to take in response to safety incidents.
- Implement a Stop Work procedure. Empower employees to stop work if they or their coworkers are in danger of being injured.
- Implement Continuous Improvement in your Safety Management System – using a Plan, Do, Check, Act system, or similar process. Making ongoing improvements in performance, commitment, strategy, and process all help build up the company’s bottom line and drive down near misses, property damage, and employee injuries.
- Celebrate! Recognize group or individual safety achievements. If the safety committee identifies a problem and fixes it; or an individual identifies a problem previously unrecognized. Celebrate the achievements in a way that is visible to the organization. Do not give safety awards for reducing accident rates. Employee injuries are lagging indicators – celebrate the leading indicators and accomplishments instead.
Key aspects of an effective safety culture
Leadership: Senior management is actively involved with employee health and safety. Leaders commit to safe working environments that are free from recognizable hazards. Leaders establish goals and monitor safety performance. All employees are held accountable and success is measured in employee daily performance and annual reviews.
Management: Managers and Supervisors implement accident and incident prevention measures. They provide management that ensures compliance with safety rules, programs, and procedures by employees. The responsibility and accountability for safety are equally important to quality, productivity, and costs.
Employees: Employee participation is critical. Employee participation in the safety program can help identify safety hazards and lead to solutions that ensure safety in the workplace. Each person is responsible to ensure they comply with safety rules, programs, and procedures. Active employee involvement leads to a successful safety culture.
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