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Safety Culture: Explained

All organizations have some degree of safety culture. The challenge is to determine the level, decide where you want to take it, and chart a path to get there. Safety culture has been described in many ways, including how an organization operates when no one is watching.

Diverse pathways lead to a better safety culture. Today, we take you down two of them.

Kennametal: 100% Safe

Kennametal, a supplier of tooling, engineering components, and advanced materials used in manufacturing, decided against a zero-accidents approach as being too negative and instead opted for a concept they call 100% Safe. The goal is to build a consistent, standardized safety culture.

The company’s safety culture is rooted in an evolving process called management-based safety (MBS). MBS tools include safety tours, safety talks, safety reviews, stand-downs, stand-ups, and more. Required activities are conducted by leaders, managers, supervisors, and employees.

Examples of MBS tools include:

  • Safety leadership teams in every facility that meet monthly
  • A requirement that all managers prepare and deliver a monthly safety talk
  • Company leaders participating in site safety events and conducting training
  • The “find-and-fix” program, which involves employees in identifying and correcting hazards
  • Daily employee safety checklists

The company also uses of a variety of metrics to ensure that the safety program is moving in the right direction. For example:

  • A safety culture assessment to capture employee opinion of safety
  • Development of a leading indicator program, with a goal of institutionalizing the focus on positive safety activities
  • Benchmarking the performance of the world’s safest companies against Kenmetal’s, using criteria developed by the National Safety Council to gauge progress toward best-in-class safety performance

UC Irvine: Mindfulness

A different pathway to safety culture is being taken at the University of California Irvine, where safety professionals are developing an innovative idea for improving safety performance by training employees to become more mindful of how they work.

“We see the main cause of accidents is inattention and lack of mindfulness about one’s circumstances and surroundings,” says Marc Gomez, assistant vice chancellor for facilities management and environmental safety and health. “Workplace safety is a state of mind.”

The idea of applying mindfulness to safety caught the attention of clinical psychologist Jessica Drew de Paz. Gomez and Paz secured funding for research into the new and promising area of mindfulness training. They are currently developing a mindfulness curriculum.

What would mindfulness-based safety training look like and how would it help people on the front lines?

Gomez cites the example of campus dining services, a source of frequent cuts, burns, and other incidents. Mindfulness training would aim to reduce incidents by teaching employees to become more aware of their surroundings and remain “in the moment” while they work rather than being pulled away by distractions.

Another example would be slips, trips, and falls, which are often caused by lack of attention to surroundings. For instance, take the case of an employee walking across the parking lot glued to the cell phone who trips and falls and is out of work for weeks. Mindfulness training could eliminate such accidents.

Many Paths to Culture

A traditional safety and health program inspired by a concept like 100% Safe and a new approach to training that emphasizes being present in the moment are just two of many pathways to a superior safety culture.

Whether you’re following proven principles or investigating new ways of keeping your workers safe, you’re on the right track if you’re assessing hazards, involving workers, tracking progress, and making constant adjustments.

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Categories: Safety, Training
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