Last time, we talked about what a safety culture is. I mentioned that a successful company will integrate safety with business goals, creating a balance between all aspects of the organization, which allows the company as a whole to mature in the same cultural direction. But how do you create that safety culture?
The culture component offers the greatest opportunity to reduce injuries and helps all of the other pieces to come together. Such a process requires a strategic plan as well as a means of measuring the spectrum of high achievements to lackluster performance. All too often the following phrases are used to justify the concept of improving safety efforts. We hear leaders say, "The safety of our people is paramount," or "A safe workplace is a productive workplace."
Although statements like these may be true, they do not produce tangible points of reference, such as a benchmark. They are easily treated as slogans, only to be forgotten.
As with any good business initiative, to know where you're going, you need to know where you are. Start by benchmarking the organizational values, measuring your culture to find out where you stand and whether perceptions are shared across departments, shifts or at all levels. A good survey of an organization should find out where it stands on its commitment, balance between safety and productivity, integrity, responsibility, and visibility of safety, among others. These results give you a starting point toward a safer culture.
From here, it's a matter of choosing and delivering on the culture you want to create. You'll need buy-in from all levels but this often starts with senior management. Once in place, you're ready to create programs and take steps toward a healthier, safer and more productive workplace culture.