Safety Culture Definition and What It Means to Organization Leaders

According to OSHA’s definition, in a strong safety culture, “everyone feels responsible for safety and pursues it on a daily basis; employees go beyond the “call of duty” to identify unsafe conditions and behaviors, and intervene to correct them.” Great culture of safety proved to result in many benefits, including lower injury rates, increased ability to retain existing staff and attract new staff, as well as higher ROI. Dedication to safety and health does not only pertain to high hazard industries such as construction. Big companies in other sectors like Coca-Cola recognized that its success in the long run relies on ensuring the safety of its workers. Because of those benefits, safety related expenses should be deemed investments, not costs.

Creating a strong health and safety culture may take months, even years. The 2016 SmartMarket Report: Building A Safety Culture by Dodge Data & Analytics identifies 33 safety performance indicators and divides them into seven groups. Management commitment to safety and health is first on the list.

Leadership Buy-In

Organization leaders set project priorities, thus, if management’s commitment to safety and health is strong, more safety initiatives will be in place. It’s indicated by the proportion of resources and support allocated to health and safety programs. Building a strong culture of safety starts with having a safety director or manager, company-wide safety training, safety posters and warning signs to raise safety awareness, as well as protocols in place for incident reports and accident investigations. The 2016 SmartMarket Report found that medium to large companies (50+ employees) are more likely to have a formal process for safety-related corrective action, possibly due to the more formalized procedures at larger companies. Yet no matter the size of an organization, safety should be the first item on every meeting’s agenda. Managers should spend their time where the workers are, to experience it firsthand, identify problems, and get feedback directly from employees, all of which will be taken into consideration while building out safety practices and safety programs. Overall, organization leaders’ active involvement helps workers take it more seriously and would translate to stronger safety cultures.

Organization-Wide Awareness

While leadership buy-in is a critical first step, a culture is built on joint efforts of all organization individuals, on a day-to-day basis. Upper management commitment to safety and health needs to trickle down to every employee, who holds responsibility for keeping themselves and others safe. Compared to other safety performance indicators in this category, a smaller proportion of 2016 SmartMarket Report respondents (just under half) reported that their companies had a joint worker/management safety and health committee. This suggests that such practice should be considered by more firms.

To achieve organization-wide awareness of safety and health in the workplace, safety responsibilities must be clearly defined. Make sure that everyone who belongs to the organization is on the same boat when defining goals and objectives for their safety programs. Create a process that holds everyone accountable for being visibly involved. Allow transparency and open communication to keep everyone updated on the process. Last but not least, celebrate the success of safety initiatives to keep the positive momentum going for future efforts.

For more details on the seven categories of safety culture indicators, download the SmartMarket Report by clicking the button below:

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