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3 Keys to Improve Your Safety Culture

Developing an effective safety culture is something we all seek to achieve. Here are three strategies that can help.

Dr. Earl Blair from Indiana University has determined the three most important strategies based on extensive reading and his experience in facilitating labor-management safety related negotiations. Those three key elements are as follows:

Strategy #1—Work Toward a 100 Percent Reporting Culture

The focus should be on developing openness around injury and near miss reporting as well as encouraging workers to identify and report unsafe conditions.

“Don’t insult your employees with a slogan,” Blair advised, making reference to slogans such as, “All injuries are preventable” and “No injuries are acceptable.”

“Most employees don’t believe it and it’s more likely to be harmful,” Blair said. He cited examples of underreporting based on fear of retaliation and how these slogans focus on the downstream (injuries), don’t tell how to improve, and are frequently not much more than “feel good” catch phrases for management.

Blair was careful to point out that there is a difference in the belief that accidents are preventable and the slogan. “There is nothing wrong with a vision of no accidents, just don’t evangelize.”

As to developing a 100 percent reporting culture, Blair suggested building trust, making reporting easy, and reporting everything with no retaliation. Make it anonymous whenever possible, he said, and make follow up actions very visible—people want to know they were listened to.

Strategy # 2—Develop Safety Awareness with Meaningful Safety Rules

Blair cited companies where safety procedures were so voluminous and complex as to be “unknowable.” He recommends making rules dynamic, inviting participation from workers in their development, making rules practical and relevant, monitored and enforced, effectively communicated, and continually improved.

Strategy # 3—Help Leaders Understand How to Act Consistently

“Most CEOs are very bright people,” noted Blair, “but they don’t know how to lead in this area.” Safety professionals must help teach leaders how to develop the culture. Safety is a very complex web of process, systems, and people, and the best solutions presented focused on observation—LBWA (lead by walking around), monitoring the workplace, and most importantly listening to workers.

Developing a safety culture isn’t rocket science—it’s much more complex than that.

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Categories: Safety, Training

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