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What does your safety culture look like?

4S Health and Safety Instructor Corner

An Article by:

Brian Robinson

Health and Safety Instructor, 4S Consulting Services Inc.

What does your safety culture look like?

health and safety cultureDid you even know your company had a culture surrounding safety? Do you understand why building a strong safety culture is not only important from the moral imperative, to keep your employees safe, but that it’s also vital to the success and profitability of your company?

If you want to gain visibility into what the culture surrounding safety at your company looks like, ask yourself one simple question and answer it honestly…

How do your employees view safety?

Do they view it as something that is important, that working safe is something they do because they understand it’s important to their employer and to them OR, do they view it as an inconvenience, something that gets in the way and just slows them down? Something that isn’t a big deal.

You likely know the answer to this question, although you may not like the answer you gave yourself. If you answered that question honestly and now realize your culture may not be where you want it to be it’s not too late, it’s simply time to change their perception.

It’s unfortunate but the culture surrounding safety in companies isn’t always strong.  Most times, that’s because the leaders don’t fully understand the risks their employees are exposed to, their obligation to provide a safe working environment for their employees under the provincial legislation for their province and how seriously an unsafe culture can negatively impact their company’s profitability.

What can be done to strengthen your culture? Well reality is that it is completely dependent on the leaders within your company, senior leaders as well as front line managers and supervisors. Here are a few simple suggestions to get you moving in the right direction.

Health and Safety Policy Statement

OHSA S 25 (2) (j) and (k) require your company to develop and post a Health and Safety Policy Statement in your workplace. The purpose of the policy statement is to show the commitment the employer has made towards providing a safe work environment for its employees.

However, for the policy statement to have an impact, the senior leaders and managers within the company must lead by example, every second of every day and support the commitments made in the H&S policy statement. If that doesn’t happen, your policy statement will eventually become just another piece of paper.

You could be doing a lot of things really well to strengthen your culture. However, if you have managers that aren’t working safe themselves or don’t take exception to unsafe acts or unsafe conditions and instead walk right by, you will never achieve your goal of a Strong Safety Culture.

Recognize people when you see them working safe

Something as simple as saying “Thank you for wearing your PPE” or “Thank you for lifting that box safely” sends a few messages. It tells the employee that you’re watching how they work. You’re supervising them as is required under Ontario’s OHSA S25 (2) (a) and 27 (1) (a)(b).

It reinforces the fact that you value them and their health as an employee and more importantly as a person. It also shows you appreciate when you see them working safely.

Employees like to be thanked, no one wants to receive corrective feedback. Something as simple as a “Thank you” will take about 5 seconds out of your day and sends a powerful message, that will go along way into strengthening your safety culture. Positive reinforcement works.

One Question I have is, why can’t every company have leaders that stand behind a statement like this.

“No task is so urgent that you can’t take the time to complete it safely every time.”

It will take some effort and time to get there however, when you get to the point where that statement defines how people work within your company, you can confidently say, your company has a Strong Safety Culture.

When that happens and you stand back and look at what you achieved. I am willing to bet you will see that employee engagement has increased and as a result, productivity has also increased, accident frequency has decreased and because of all of these factors, your company’s profit has increased substantially.

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