Creating a Successful Safety Culture Begins with Leadership’s Commitment, Engagement

safety culture

Establishing a successful culture of safety begins with leadership, just as it does with any other cultural shift a company is seeking to create throughout its organization. The people who are at the helm of the organization, including its CEO, must be truly vested in creating a safety culture. If the CEO’s visibility and participation are not an active part of the process, the organization will experience marginal success with its safety program. The actions employees see from leadership are what instill a culture of safety.

While there are many aspects to a successful safety culture, a few hallmarks include:  the establishment of a formal Safety Committee, conducting inspections to identify and correct hazards before an accident occurs, utilizing metrics to determine success, and empowering employees to participate in creating a safe workplace environment.

Leadership Must Walk the Talk

An organization’s Safety Committee is typically led by the individual charged with the company’s overall safety regulations and compliance along with each department head. But it’s the CEO’s participation and interest in these meetings that will be the difference maker for the company. The CEO’s participation reflects his or her shared beliefs, practices, and attitudes in fostering safety among the group and throughout the organization.

The same applies with the implementation of periodic safety inspection programs. The CEO should be visible during many of these inspections. It’s one thing for employees to see the head of safety inspecting an operation and quite another to see the CEO participating in monthly walk-throughs of a manufacturing plant, for example. It’s critical for employees to see leadership participating in activities that are designed to improve safety.

The Importance of Measuring Safety Programs

Measuring the success of a safety program is critical. An organization should track if its safety processes and practices address established objectives and should note where improvements can be made. It’s important for the organization to measure both the bottom-line results of its safety program and how well it’s doing at preventing accidents and incidents. To accomplish this, a combination of lagging and leading indicators of safety performance is utilized.

Lagging indicators provide an organization with incident, accident, and lost-time rates. The accident already occurred, and now you’re looking at past-accident statistics. These are the bottom-line numbers that evaluate the overall effectiveness of safety at the organization. They tell you how many people got hurt and how badly. While this is important, the ideal objective is to prevent the workplace accident from occurring.

Leading indicators look at behaviors; they are focused on future safety performance and continuous improvement. These measures are proactive in nature and report what employees are doing on a regular basis to prevent injuries. For example, let’s say, last year 60% of the workforce at a manufacturing plant wore safety glasses, which is a company requirement. This year, the objective is for 85% of employees to wear safety glasses, with the company seeking to improve employee behavior. More employees wearing protective eyewear translates into fewer eye injuries (the eye injury is the lagging indicator).

Empowering Employees to Participate in Their Safety

The real goal for a safety manager is to empower front-line supervisors as well as all employees to take charge of their own safety and report potential hazards and problems. A safety manager shouldn’t be policing the operation but rather advising and teaching employees to take control of their safety situation.

Providing leading indicator incentives is an effective approach toward empowering and engaging employees as is making “safety” a key component of annual performance reviews.

Organizations that create a successful safety culture not only are rewarded with lower incidence and injury rates among employees, but they also can realize a reduction in their workers’ comp premiums (all things being equal such as payroll, classification changes, experience modification rate, etc.).

Workers’ compensation specialist Prescient National provides risk-management services to organizations to assist in establishing a strong culture of safety. Our consultation services are free to each policyholder and are tailored specifically for the organization’s unique needs.

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