Describing what comprises a “ workforce safety culture” is easy. According to OSHA, “Safety cultures consist of shared beliefs, practices, and attitudes that exist at an establishment. Culture is the atmosphere created by those beliefs, attitudes, etc., which shape our behavior.” Sounds fairly straight-forward, doesn’t it? Sure, it does. But while describing a culture of safety is easy, creating one isn’t.
While you can’t measure safety the way you can gauge productivity or efficiency, you can still tell if your workers are engaged in a workforce safety culture. You need to look at the visible signs of safety in action. These signs are clear indications of just how important safety is to your workforce. After all, a workforce safety culture sets the standard for safety at your company. And a company with poor safety standards is a company at risk. That’s not a place you want your company to be.
Below we look at some key signs that will tell you if your workforce is engaged in your workforce safety culture and provide some tips on how to improve things if it’s not. But first, let’s take a look at why having a good workforce safety culture is so critical.
Importance of Instilling a Workforce Safety Culture
A safety culture cuts down on the injuries suffered by employees. And nothing is more important than keeping your people free from harm. It’s also a great way to cut down on injury and illness costs, which impacts a company’s bottom line and improves its chances of surviving long term. A workforce safety culture is a direct reflection of the overall culture of your company, which is critical for maintaining competitiveness.
How much does a workforce safety culture impact a business? An established safety culture, says OSHA, can cut down on these injury and illness costs by anywhere from 20 to 40 percent in some cases. Here are some other statistics associated with safety to consider:
- Employers pay almost $1 billion a week for direct workers’ compensation costs alone. That money comes straight from company’s profits.
- Injuries and illnesses increase not only workers’ compensation costs, but also retraining costs as well.
- Lost productivity from injuries and illness cost companies roughly $63 billion each year. Again, the money places a big hit on a company’s profits. Many companies in heavy industry – particularly construction – are among the least productive industries in the world.
If you’re like many companies, there’s a good chance you have high workers’ compensation costs. Analyzing the impact of your workforce safety culture—and then making improvements—is a great way to start controlling these costs.
15 Signs You Have an Exceptional Safety Culture
Below are 15 telltale signs that you have a great workforce safety culture at your facility. If you say yes to all of the signs below, that’s great. If you say no to some of them, you still have some work to do.
- Show a working knowledge of safety — Do all your employees show a working knowledge of both safety and health issues? In exceptional safety cultures, all employees show this kind of knowledge. They know what to do when it counts and they know their roles and responsibilities when it comes to safety.
- Clear definition of a workpforce safety culture — The best way to achieve something is to set a goal. Doing so will drive action. That way you can measure where you’re at in achieving a goal. It also helps you build a plan for reaching that goal. To create a workforceplace safety culture, you need to have a clear definition of what it is and how to achieve it using a plan.
- Safety is the key priority — To have a truly exceptional culture of safety, there can be no competing issues. When there is competition between issues, safety must come out on top every time, not just when it’s easy and/or convenient. It’s that simple. Otherwise, you’ll end up creating a toxic culture.
- Issues are improved and resolved — Effective safety cultures are proactive. They identify issues before they become costly problems. They proactively find risk factors and put control measures in place. And they have safety leaders that stay ahead of the curve to resolve problems.
- Financial investment in safety and health — Exceptional safety cultures don’t rely on slogans to get the job done. They solve problems, make improvements, and battle issues constantly. But they can’t do these things without resources. Effective safety cultures make visible and significant investments in safety and health.
- Everyone gets involved in safety issues — Safety is everyone’s job in effective issue resolution in safety cultures. That’s because everyone in the organization sees safety as a priority and as their job. In other words, everyone plays a meaningful role in the safety process — from the plant manager to the safety manager to the supervisor and worker in the plant.
- Safety managers lead the charge — It’s easy for safety managers to spend a lot of time in their offices. But in effective safety cultures managers get out on the floor. That’s where the real work gets done because that’s where the problems are. It’s where you can talk to employees about safety issues and get valuable feedback.
- Employees are actively engaged in safety — Are your employees dismissive of safety initiatives or are the actively engaged in them? If they’re actively engaged then, they’ll be more productive overall. They’ll also provide valuable feedback and generate tangible results on safety issues.
- Safety is at the top of everyone’s agenda — If safety isn’t at the top of your agenda, then you probably won’t have an effective workforce safety culture. When you don’t put safety at the top of your agenda, you send a loud and clear message that safety is not that important. That’s not a good message to send.
- Workforce feels comfortable reporting safety issues — How comfortable are your employees reporting safety issues? In effective safety cultures, employees are comfortable reporting any safety issues. They know they won’t be punished for coming forward. It’s a huge indication of the culture you’re molding.
- Detailed audits are conducted by auditors — In safety cultures, regular detailed audits of a company’s safety program are conducted by internal or external auditors. That way you get an impartial reading of what’s going on. It’s called meeting the challenge head-on. Internal auditors tend to give companies pats on the back.
- Has safety as a condition of employment — You can’t afford to have someone who treats safety lightly. Instead, you want someone that takes safety seriously. So, effective safety cultures have safety as a condition of employment. That’s making safety a key organizational value. And that produces results.
- Managers see safety issues as opportunities for improvement — Managers in effective safety cultures see issues as chances to improve. So, they react positively to issues that are raised. That mindset encourages the workforce to come forward with issues, so managers can escalate the issue high enough to get a solution put in place.
- Rewards and recognition are given — Rewarding and recognizing for good safety behaviors are the norm in exceptional safety cultures. They reinforce positive safety behaviors and motivate continued health and safety performances. Eventually, word gets out that the culture recognizes a job well done. That has a big impact.
- Safety is seen as an investment — Safety cultures see resources put into safety as an investment, not a cost or expenditure. That’s because companies that perform well in safety perform well in business. They’re more efficient and more productive. And that has an impact on the bottom line.
Building a safety culture is a challenge. No doubt about it. It takes time, perseverance, and hard work. It also takes commitment on everyone’s part — including senior management. But the payoff is huge. It creates a positive attitude toward safety, sets the standard for safety at your company, and reduces accidents and incidents. That, in turn, lowers workers’ compensation costs and boosts profits. Who can argue with that?