Cultivating a Culture of Safety in the Workplace

Industry experts weigh in on how to promote safety in the workplace through company communication, training, and culture.

Danielle Riha
May 16, 2022

What comes first: hiring safe employees, or creating a safe workplace?

We posed this question to business leaders and coaches in deskless industries where workplace health and safety is paramount (construction, manufacturing, industrial cleaning) and it turns out, the answer is a little of both.

In a previous article, we discussed how to hire safe workers. In this article, we’re looking at ways to promote safety in the workplace through company communication, training, and culture.

Get employees to think about safety every day.

Safety is paramount in any high-risk field. Having a “3 strikes and you’re out” policy is one way of tracking and monitoring the program. I’m not a big fan of “zero tolerance” programs, because I feel it is more detrimental to the employee/employer relationship than the benefits of the program.
Employers should take it very seriously and make every effort to encourage the enforcement of safety rules. From workplace safety training and informational posters to video trainings, and memos — there are numerous ways that employers can keep workers up-to-date and focused on safety procedures.
In addition, recognition programs, safety committees, and incentive programs get employees involved in the safety process. The program implementation may vary, but the goal is to get employees to think about safety every day. Make sure employees use PPE whenever it is required and encourage them to take the time to don appropriate PPE.

James Albert, Einstein Business Resources

Train managers on how to keep employees engaged in the culture and business.

Communication is at an all-time high with an engaged workforce. Employees function as a cohesive team, learn from each other and are encouraged to take accountability. A workforce with high engagement sees lower turnover. Employees enjoy their jobs, and are committed to the company goals because they personally impact those goals.
All these characteristics – low turnover, accountability, communication and knowing the safety goals – have a direct impact on safety. It simply becomes the culture.
Robust training is the key to promoting this culture of engagement and safety. We must train supervisors on such leadership skills as how to engage their team, provide critical feedback, retain staff and encourage open, “no-fault” communication. Employee training should involve taking accountability, communicating within a diverse team and managing conflict resolution. In today’s tight hiring market, employers who prioritize this “soft skills” training are rewarded with high engagement and a true culture of safety.

Sarah Laboranti, Director of Training, Dynamic Corporate Solutions, Inc.

Lead by example & extend your insistence on safety to their family and personal life.

Like any culture, live it. Preach it. Measure it. Talk about it. Demonstrate it. Reward it. Promote it.
It also helps to get the family involved. Send seasonal or relevant safety tips home: summer safety – Halloween safety – holiday safety – driving in the winter – boating safety – CPR lessons as just a few examples.

Randy Goruk, The Randall Wade Group, LLC

Follow the M.D. Cooper Framework.

The best methodology for creating or promoting safety in the workplace is using the M.D. Cooper framework. Dr. Cooper is one of the world's leading authorities in behavioral safety, and he is both a business psychologist and safety professional. He suggests incorporating these three aspects to maintain or improve an organization's safety culture.
Psychological aspect: Can be measured by a safety climate questionnaire to capture a glimpse of staff attitude and perceptions toward safety at a point in time.
Behavioral aspect: Can be measured by focusing on individuals' actions through direct peer observations and self-reports.
Situational aspect: Can be measured through the organization's policies, procedures, regulations, and system.

Gloria Strauthers, Exodus Management

Document standard operating procedures, train to them, and have employees sign off on them.

Standard operating procedures have got to be in place. You have to have an understanding with everybody that this is how we operate under every condition, bottom line, no questions asked. And if you don’t meet those requirements, then you’re not here.
One of the easiest things you can do to make sure that everybody has that understanding is to have your employees sign off on standard operating procedures on every aspect of your company - not just safety. Have the employee sign it, their manager sign it, and the owner of the business sign it. If there are standard operating procedures under everything you do, that sets the tone from day one that you’re serious about it.

Tommy Richardson, NUBS Media

(For some inspiration to get started on documenting safety hazards in the workplace and writing standard operating procedures, check out this comprehensive three-part safety checklist for roofing work.)

Parting Thoughts

Not sure where or how to begin? Luke Matelan (from FMI Corporation) says to start small.

“Tackle the low hanging fruit first. Prioritize the initiatives that will use the least amount of resources and provide the greatest return. Getting some ‘quick wins’ will help build momentum towards building your safety culture.”

Looking for some help and guidance through the process? Check out our partner marketplace to browse our list of preferred business coaches and consultants to find the right fit for your company.

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