Building a strong workplace safety culture

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has observed that building a strong safety culture has “the single greatest impact on accident reduction” of any other initiative in the workplace. Developing a culture of safety should be a top priority for companies and organizations.

What does it mean to have a strong safety culture? According to OSHA, in workplaces that have solid safety cultures, each member of the company believes they have a right to a safe workplace, accepts responsibility for their own safety, and feels it is their duty to protect the safety of others.

Observations at OSHA Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) worksites, and confirmed by independent research, has found the following practices to be useful for the development of a strong safety culture:

Encouraging top management to “buy-in”
To develop a strong safety culture, head managers must be on board and committed to initiatives because they control the resources needed to enhance safety. The goals of managers usually involve improving profits and productivity, and to gain their support it is important that they understand how safety benefits the company’s bottom line. Strong safety cultures with injury and illness prevention programs tend to increase productivity, reduce costs, and improve employee retention, morale, and job satisfaction

Creating a safety committee with a common vision
Form a group of management, supervisors, employees, union representatives, if applicable, and any safety staff to steer the direction of safety efforts and provide guidance throughout the organization. Together, this group should work to define a common safety vision for the facility, set goals, make plans, communicate objectives and successes, and measure results. It is important that this group is given authority to promote change in the workplace

Giving new safety initiatives proper kick-offs
To gain employee support and participation, inform all members of the workplace at the start of any new safety initiative. One great way to build safety awareness is to hold a kick-off event. Employers can make presentations to explain why safety is a top priority and what the safety vision is for the organization. They can also show safety videos or demonstrate the proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE) to highlight good safety practices

Defining success consistently
To keep teams motivated and focused on safety, it is important to constantly measure and report progress toward goals. Some metrics OSHA recommends are the number of hazards reported or corrected, number of inspections, number of equipment checks, and a job safety analysis. While the safety committee should continually monitor accident rates to evaluate and report the performance of the safety program, emphasizing accident rates as a measure of a team’s safety success can make employees less likely to report accidents, leaving potential risks unidentified and unresolved

Rewarding good safety attitudes and behavior
Develop policies for recognizing good effort toward a safer workplace. Hold ceremonies to encourage participation and innovation within safety programs and highlight teams that go above and beyond to ensure safety. Be sure to constantly evaluate the effectiveness of these incentives

Communicating and celebrating
To keep the workplace motivated, members of the safety committee should report progress and results regularly in meetings. When major goals are achieved, these should be announced publicly and celebrated so everyone can have confidence and pride that the program is working. Safety officers can also use these meetings to gather feedback and input from employees on how the system may be improved

Take steps today to foster a stronger workplace safety culture. Doing so will not only make a worksite safer but could also promote more efficient and cost-effective work practices.>/p>

Go Back to Safety News
Back to Top