How can you influence your employees to care about safety as much as you do? What will it take to get your employees to think, breathe, and dream about risk reduction? In other words, how can you create and sustain a safety-centric culture?
Just like anyone else in your shoes, you care deeply about your employees’ health and wellbeing. But, ironically, it often feels like they don’t care about it themselves. They take too much risk, putting themselves and others in danger. This hurts your bottom-line, productivity, accident rates, and most importantly, it hurts people.
While these are pressing issues for you today, they could be history if you work towards building a safety-centric culture.
In short, a safety-centric culture is one where every employee from owner to part-time employee puts safety before anything else. Every decision that everyone makes at the company has safety in mind. The benefits should be clear: when everyone cares about safety, your accident numbers go down without you having to do all the heavy lifting.
That’s the answer you get for a nickel. The answer you get for a dollar is more complicated and nuanced. It involves intrinsic questions such as:
These are important questions to answer if you want to have a large impact on your employees’ safety. However, it would take a novel to adequately explain it. Some of our products such as The Leadership Development Course, The Fleet Safety Course, and LLLC Certification get at these questions in depth.
For the sake of your time, we’ll focus this article on a few basic things you can do to lay the foundation for a safety-centric culture.
Culture is essentially the accepted way of behaving in a group. Peter Drucker - known as the father of management thinking - once said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” That is to say, you can have all the rules, policy, procedures, and plans you want, but they won’t do squat if your culture doesn’t reflect your end goals.
This is important because, whether you know it or not, you have a culture. And if you aren’t intentional about creating it, it will create itself. Take a second to think about how your employees regard safety. Do they act as though it’s the highest priority, or do they think it comes in a distant second to productivity and quick results?
If it’s the latter, it’s not their fault. They aren’t lazy, incompetent, or careless. They’re doing what they think is correct. As their manager and leader, it’s your job to show them what’s important. You must intentionally shape your safety-culture.
Creating a safety-centric culture is a long journey. It takes a dedicated plan, follow-through, and consistency. You don’t set it and forget it. You have to maintain it and sustain it. That said, you have to start somewhere, right? Here are three things you can start doing today that will set the foundation for a safety-centric culture.
Language changes people’s lives. By saying yes or by saying no, we shape our reality. For example, most of us eventually answer the fateful question “do you take this person to be your lawfully wedded husband/wife” by declaring, “I do.” Those two words change our lives forever.
Similarly, The United States of America came into being when some scrappy colonists got together and declared their independence from Britain. On July 3rd, we were part of the British empire and on July 4th we weren’t. Of course, it took eight years and cost 25,000 Americans their lives, but nothing happens until we say “I declare.”
You need to make a declaration of your own. Just like any great undertaking, creating a safety-centric culture starts by saying something like, “We have a zero-tolerance policy against unsafe behaviors.” Then, make the declaration heard. Ask every single employee to make this their own declaration. Commit your entire company to making safe decisions and only tolerating safe behaviors.
A declaration isn’t much good if you don’t back it up. You don’t stay married if you aren’t a good partner, and the declaration wouldn’t have meant anything if people weren’t willing to commit to action. Thus, if you want a safety-centric culture, you need to make safety education and training a common part of working for your company.
The best place to start is usually with an off-the-shelf safety training program such as The Fleet Safety Course. Having your employees go through a professionally-made training program sends the message that your company cares about their employees. And of course, a program like The Fleet Safety Course is guaranteed to change your employees’ behavior and prevent accidents.
Better yet, go one step further with it and create what we call a Monthly Safety Initiative. Each month, host a safety meeting focusing on a loss-leader in your company. Engage your employees with the material and learning points throughout the month. Make sure safety is always top of mind. If you want help, we have monthly safety initiative materials ready to go. Just ask us!
Your employees look to you for what they should care about. Make sure you walk the walk AND talk the talk. Every day, make it a point to check in with your employees. Ask them what they’re doing to make sure they keep themselves and others safe. Make yourself a visible presence.
For this to be effective, you must be committed to safety yourself. You must never walk by an unsafe situation without correcting it. Don’t be mean or hostile - just explain what’s wrong and why it matters. Your employees will take note and, eventually, follow suit.
The transformation into a safety-centric company is a difficult one. It takes time, effort, and resources. It takes a dedicated, passionate, and consistent approach. However, it’s possibly the most important thing someone in your position can do.
Don’t let your culture create itself. Take these three steps we gave you today to start on your safety-centric culture. Doing so will improve your bottom line, improve productivity, and potentially save lives.
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