According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 4,764 fatal work injuries recorded in the US in 2020 alone. The International Labour Organization also noted that American businesses spend at least USD 170.9 billion annually to cover costs associated with workplace injuries and accidents.
The numbers presented above are alarming, especially for new and small businesses. These should be reasons enough for you to prioritize maintaining a safety culture in your organisation. Embracing this kind of culture can become your key to keeping your employees safe and ensuring the long-term success of your business.
The term "workplace culture" has become more common across various business industries. Workplace culture is defined as how things are done in a specific workplace. Instead of referring to a company's safety program, safety culture talks about the attitudes, behaviors, and mindsets of employees across all levels towards safety in the workplace.
Creating and maintaining a positive safety culture is crucial to the success of any business because it reduces the risks of accidents, aids in the stability of the business, and protects the business from lawsuits. A safety culture also boosts the productivity of employees as they're able to use machinery and equipment properly without putting their safety on the line.
The idea of creating and changing your existing safety culture (if there is already one) is daunting but necessary. Being complacent about your organisation's safety program has several drawbacks, namely accidents and loss of life. Embracing a safety culture in your organisation can prevent all of these from happening.
Because safety culture functions as a pillar of your organisation's health and safety program, it's essential that you maintain this type of culture. Achieving this goal isn't easy, but the steps mentioned below can help:
The mindsets and behaviors of leaders towards workplace safety impact other employees in the organisation. It'll be challenging for you to maintain a safety culture if you can't get the buy-in of top-level managers and supervisors.
One of the first steps in maintaining a safety culture is encouraging leaders to prioritize workplace safety at all times. Remember, leaders are role models in the organisation and set the standard on how other employees should think or behave.
When the upper management displays safety-first behavior and mindset, it won't be long before employees at other levels follow. In short, the leaders in the organisation will help cement the concept of safety as an organisational priority across all levels and departments.
It'll be challenging for you to maintain a safety culture if you don't have any idea of the conditions of different working facilities. Are employees exposed to chemicals at work? Do they have to work in environments with faulty electrical wirings?
To acquire answers to the questions posted above, take the time to personally inspect facilities to identify potential risks and hazards. This should be a priority, especially if the organisation operates in more than one location.
By conducting a safety assessment early, you'll have a better sense of what improvements to make to boost workplace safety. This also impacts the morale of your employees because it shows that you genuinely care about their safety and productivity at work.
Employees are exposed to different risks and hazards when working, so they should undergo safety training before being assigned on-site. Safety training helps employees understand the risks and hazards around them and the precautions they need to follow to stay safe.
Ideally, safety training should be a part of the onboarding process to orient new hires on what they should do and not do when working. Refresher training should also be provided to tenured employees to update them on the latest safety protocols in the industry.
One of the biggest mistakes employers commit is to discuss workplace safety once and ensure that their initial strategies are enough to bring results. Keep in mind that safety protocols in different industries change, and continually using outdated protocols can still lead to accidents and injuries.
Your strategic planning should always include employee health and safety. This area should be given utmost consideration at all times. Maximize strategic planning sessions by developing relevant workplace safety protocols and policies that are accessible to employees.
Employees who report risks and precautions will likely stir problems if no single team is assigned to address them. This will also cause delays in the workplace as employees will have to leave their day-to-day responsibilities to solve the problem raised.
Maintaining a safety culture in your organisation will come off easier when you have a safety committee. As the name suggests, this committee will be responsible for addressing any safety-related concerns raised. Members of this committee are also expected to meet regularly to identify potential risks and hazards and deal with them ASAP before they cause problems.
Having a safety committee also impacts employees' productivity because they don't have to abandon or pause their daily tasks only to accommodate safety-related concerns. A specific team handles these matters, so others can continue working.
All of your efforts to create safety protocols and form a safety committee will be fruitless if you don't have sufficient funds. Improving how your employees think and behave towards workplace safety is crucial, but keep in mind that the process also requires a budget.
Allocate a budget for establishing a safety culture regardless of the industry your organisation is operating in. In general, your budget should cover the expenses of buying protective equipment and safety tools and improving facilities in the workplace.
There's only so much you can do to maintain a safety culture in your organisation. More often than not, your own efforts aren't enough to succeed in this endeavor. This is especially true if you don't have any experience in health and safety programs.
To increase your chances of succeeding in having a safety culture in your organisation, consider hiring professionals for help. Work with consultants and government agencies that can provide resources on how you can create or improve your organisation's safety culture.
Yes, hiring professionals usually entails additional costs but taking this route is a cost-effective investment. With professionals working on your side, you can streamline your resources as you'll have a better idea of which strategies work and don't.
Communication is important in all business areas, especially when it comes to maintaining workplace safety. Without clear communication, employees will likely struggle to remain safe as they don't know what hazards are present in their workplace.
Some of the best ways to communicate risks and hazards in the workplace are by using signages. Do you want to reduce slip and fall accidents at work? Place warning signs on wet surfaces. Worried employees won't be able to exit the building when emergencies occur? Use green-colored signs on door exits and escape routes.
It's also important to use different communication channels so employees will have avenues to air out their safety-related concerns. Aside from emails, you can also put drop boxes in the different areas of the workplace or dedicate a couple of minutes during meetings to discuss the topic. Creating groups in different apps is also an excellent option.
To ensure that everyone in the organisation is on the same page in maintaining a safety culture, reward them. For example, if certain departments had zero casualties or accidents in a month, treat them to their favorite restaurant for lunch.
Rewarding employees and departments that prioritize safety is a great way to increase participation and engagement. This also helps reinforce the idea that maintaining a safety culture is a collaborative effort among all the employees in the organisation.
Even the most established organisations can't create and maintain a safety culture for the first time. The process usually takes a lot of trials and errors before getting it right. You should do the same by regularly reviewing and improving your existing strategies.
Take the time to assess the effectiveness of your strategies and assess which ones are giving you the results you're expecting. Discontinue using strategies that don't impact your progress and focus more on strategies that help you achieve your short- and long-term goals.
Embedding a safety culture in the workplace is an ongoing process, so never settle once you have a program. Instead, look for loopholes and improve your strategies accordingly.
Maintaining a safety culture in your organisation doesn't happen overnight, so don't expect to notice results after implementing all these tips in a day. To see improvements, consistently implement all the strategies mentioned here and ensure every employee participates.