Developing an effective safety culture is something we all seek to achieve. Dr. Earl Blair of Indiana University has tapped into his extensive reading and experience in facilitating labor-management safety-related negotiations to develop these key strategies:
Strategy #1: Work toward a 100% reporting culture
Focus on developing openness in reporting injuries and “near misses,” as well as encouraging workers to identify and report unsafe conditions.
Don’t insult employees with such slogans as, “All injuries are preventable” and “No injuries are acceptable.” Although there’s nothing wrong with a vision of no workplace accidents, avoid evangelizing – most employees don’t believe in this approach, making it counterproductive. Blair cites examples of underreporting based on fear of retaliation adding that these slogans focus on the downstream (injuries), don’t give workers specifics on how to improve, and are often nothing more than “feel good” catch phrases for management.
To develop a 100% reporting culture based on employee trust, management needs to make reporting easy, ensure anonymity (wherever possible) and take high profile follow-up actions – employees need to know that they’ve been heard.
Strategy # 2: Develop safety awareness with meaningful safety rules
Too many companies have such voluminous and complex safety procedures that they’re “unknowable.” It makes sense to invite participation from workers in developing rules that are dynamic, practical and relevant, monitored and enforced, communicated effectively, and improved continually.
Strategy # 3—Help leaders understand how to act consistently in developing a safety culture
“Most CEOs are very bright people,” notes’ Blair, “but they don’t know how to lead in this area.” Safety professionals must help teach leaders how to develop the culture. Workplace safety is a multifaceted web of processes, systems, and people. The best solutions focus on observation: leading by walking around (LBWA) monitoring the workplace, and, most importantly, listening to workers.
Blair’s conclusion: “Developing a safety culture isn’t rocket science – it’s far more complex than that.”