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What's your company safety culture?

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A company’s safety culture includes the shared beliefs, attitudes, and work practices which ultimately create an atmosphere that shapes employee safety related behavior. Employees and workers are not likely to take issue with the importance or concept of working safely. Unfortunately that concept often doesn’t translate into action. And what makes the task of reducing accidents and injuries difficult is that certain negative behaviors, attitudes, and systems are engrained in the company working culture. Therefore, safety-related success is directly related to the ability to change attitudes and behaviors – or more succinctly, to change the company safety culture.

Want a quick assessment of your safety culture? Ask yourself these questions about your company:

1. What is management’s attitude regarding workplace safety?
Research has shown that at least 50% of a company’s safety performance can be determined by management’s commitment to safety. Therefore, management’s visible support is vital to changing a safety culture for the better. If your management is not setting the tone for workplace safety, then you’re likely to have accidents, incidents and other safety-related problems.
 
2. What company safety procedures and policies do you have in place that are actually enforced?
A comprehensive company safety manual is not enough. Often I find such manuals collecting dust on a seldom visited bookshelf. For your safety culture to be positive, safety rules actually have to be enforced.
 
3. Do company supervisors have specific responsibilities regarding workplace safety?
Supervisors are often task orientated in their methods of getting things done. Employees and workers follow their lead. Safety must be documented as specific responsibilities and included in those tasks. Those tasks may include safety orientation of new employees, correcting unsafe acts, safety inspection duties, remedial work actions, safety training responsibilities and many others. Make safety a part of your supervisor's jobs in a specific way.
 
4. Does your company have safety goals and what are they?
What are your company’s safety goals? Not only should you know, but everyone in the organization should know as well. If you “shout” those safety goals loud enough employees will start listening and your safety culture can change quickly.
 
5. Does your company take action or respond to unsafe employee
actions at work?

If you allow unsafe behavior at your workplace, you will eventually have injuries and perhaps very serious injuries. Employees often point out, “I’ve always done the job this way and have never been hurt before.” That may be true, but historical accident diagrams or triangles illustrate that the potential for injury in these circumstances is always high.

One of the most famous and well known of these triangles is Heinrich’s Triangle which suggests that for every 330 unsafe acts, 29 will result in minor injuries and 1 in a major injury, or even a fatality. Over an extended period of time, the absence of injury for those who are consistently unsafe actually reinforces the very behavior that will likely cause them to be seriously injured.

Don’t let your supervisors “walk-by” an unsafe act or behavior. Take action to change those employee behaviors before injuries force serious consequences that will benefit no one.

 
6. Do employees receive appropriate
safety training?

A common and very specific OSHA citation, which often includes substantial OSHA fines, is OSHA 1926.21(b)(2) which states:

“The employer shall instruct each employee in the recognition and avoidance of unsafe conditions and the regulations applicable to his work environment to control or eliminate any hazards or other exposure to illness or injury.”

To have a positive safety culture, safety training has to be relevant, important, and simply put, a part of doing business. There is power in the repetition of safety training. Make safety training an important part of your business. If your safety culture isn’t positive now, that can soon change.

 

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