Safety First, Always

Creating a Safety Culture

There is not an industry or sector in which safety is not critical. Regardless of whether it is a construction company, retail or service provider, industrial manufacturer or food service firm, the safety of employees and customers should always be a priority.
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In fact, safety should be a condition of employment, both for an employee and an employer. An employer should operate their business in accordance with a robust program for the safety and well-being of the employee, and the employee must comply with it for their safety and that of the general public.

Safety is no accident. It does not just happen: it is planned, organized and implemented. A thoughtful approach and vigilant monitoring and evaluation are necessary to make certain that programs work.

A successful safety program requires clearly defined objectives and a carefully laid out plan to achieve them. Safety cannot simply be an idea; it must be a way of doing things: a culture. Health and safety are interlinked and will have a positive impact on a company’s culture, public perception and bottom line.

Safety is influenced by many things including management style, the strength of leadership, established priorities, the attitudes of peers, workplace conditions and the infrastructure and logistics of an organization. Human, technical and organizational factors all factor into an effective safety culture.

Failures of safety can be linked to breakdowns in an organization’s policies and procedures, ineffective management, weak leadership, miscommunication, lack of employee skill, procedural violations and disregard of education.

A good safety program starts at the top and is spread through an entire organization. It is built on trust and respect, accountability and inclusivity, continuous improvement and open communication. A comprehensive program cannot be realized overnight. It takes time, attention, investment, leadership and a great deal of active participation from all members of an organization.

A safety culture is one that promotes shared attitudes, behaviours and values in the workplace as a whole. Ownership, management and employees at every level have an important role to play in implementing and adopting a safety culture. Education is critical in this regard.

Safety requires awareness. Every person in a work environment must exhibit a clear understanding of the objectives of the safety program, and it is the responsibility of the employer to invest in the necessary education and training as well as provide tools, technology and resources for employees to integrate into their day-to-day operations.

If an employee does not possess the necessary skills or competency to fulfill the responsibilities of their job, it is the responsibility of management to act accordingly. Good hiring practices are an excellent way to ensure employees possess the relevant skills for a position from the outset.

Employees should be trained and cross-trained so that everyone is aware of their part in workplace safety. Workshops, lunch-and-learns and daily, weekly or monthly meetings, are opportunities to make risks known to employees so they can take action to protect themselves, co-workers and customers.

Employers and management teams are responsible for engaging employees, leading by example and demonstrating safety practices and procedures. Leadership should be visible and accessible, making employees comfortable enough to report violations when they occur. Leaders must be sure to respond positively and act on the reported matter promptly so issues can be resolved before becoming more serious.

Many companies rely on health and safety committees to facilitate open communication and transparency and develop a plan of action to minimize or remove existing and potential risks. These committees serve as a point of contact for employees and a conduit of information.

Putting production costs before safety will almost always result in the failure of a safety program. Many companies will use incentives to motivate employees to perform their job safely, providing positive reinforcement for safe behaviours and attitudes as they reinforce progressive actions. However, enticements alone will not lead to a strong overall safety culture.

An alternative to a reward-based system is disciplinary action. Punitive action should be used only as a last resort, and the nature of the consequences could have the intended effect of encouraging compliance with established s policies and procedures.

A good safety platform evolves to always comply with relevant industry regulations. A program ought to be regularly audited to find out if objectives are being met. If they are not, issues should not be swept under the rug; rather, these should be looked at opportunities for improvement.

A proactive safety culture means getting to know potential risks before they arise, so plans can be made to prevent or alleviate them. Risk assessment is one of the best tools for employers. Workplace safety and accident prevention service providers can assist in the creation of a safety strategy and an approach to integrating that program into the company’s existing culture.

The most cost-effective way to ensure safety is to make it take precedence from the time a business is established. Successfully adopting a safety culture will make a company more attractive to employees, making it easier to attract and retain the best available talent, and money spent on safety has a great return on investment.

When safety is a success, it means fewer injuries and sick days. The rate of satisfaction in the workplace goes up, as does productivity and customer satisfaction. Fewer injuries means better insurance rates, which means less money spent, improved profitability and a good reputation in the market. There is no better measure of success for an employer who has made safety a priority.

These benefits show that it pays to be safe. It is good for employees, and it is good for the company.

November 13, 2018, 8:05 PM EST

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