Three Strategies to Building a Better Safety Culture

J.A. Rodriguez, CSP, ASP on Safety Culture as Part of National Safety Month

Published on Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Superior quality. You know it when you see it. You realize it when you don’t. The quality of a service or work product is clearly visible when present. The unmistakable feel of a fine writing instrument, the responsiveness of a high-end automobile, and appeal of a well-built home are self-evident. The same can be said about a world-class safety culture.

Your organizational safety culture is the foundation for enhanced business performance. This is the starting point for excellence, yet many organizations fail to diligently work towards implementing a high-quality one. Typical safety program activities such as installing machine guarding, educating employees, establishing safety goals, and developing hazard analysis, are essential, but there is a much bigger challenge. To get to the next level, leaders must earn workforce buy-in as part of a comprehensive safety management system. This is precisely where benchmark organizations deviate from the ordinary.

Here are three strategies to help your organization build a better safety culture:

1. If they own it, they own it.

Perspective: Often, there is no better idea than their idea. Encourage the flow of viewpoints, better ways of accomplishing work, and enhancements to daily tasks. Employees who feel as though they have an influential voice at the table will own the final decision. Determine who the influential and informal employee leaders are and secure their buy-in. These leaders will then assist in driving sustainable and positive culture change. Before long, your safety culture will be self-governing, self-sufficient, adaptive, and innovative.


2. Let them fail small and be self-accountable.

Lenience: An organization wrapped in fear is void of innovation and stuck in a rut. Convert failure into positive learning experiences by extracting lessons, changing processes, not people, and by driving change through encouragement, not discipline. Failure is the gift of innovation. Noticeable improvement cannot exist without it. Failing small and frequently allows for process corrections with minimal impact. Failing big and infrequently can be disastrous for any organization. Embrace a mindset that it is better to receive one million, one-dollar ideas than it is to receive one, one-million-dollar idea. Recurrent employee participation drives engagement and engagement without fear of failure is key to a better safety culture. Self-accountability then becomes a natural bi-product.


3. Support, encourage, be visible and present, listen, acknowledge, value.

Transformation: This takes a lot of work and organizational fortitude, just like anything worthwhile. What is important to the boss is important to the employees. Say what you do. Do what you say. Leaders are under the workers’ watchful eyes. Team members who experience their leader’s’ support and encouragement are more likely to be champions of a safer workplace. Being visible and present drives perceptions that powerfully influence others in synergic ways. Listen to their ideas. The crazier these concepts seem, the more innovative they are likely to be. The impression of being heard, acknowledged, and valued screams importance. The feeling of importance drives validation which delivers a committed and transformed workforce.

A better safety culture. You know it when you see it. You realize it when you don’t. Dare to deviate from the ordinary.

J.A. Rodriguez, Jr., CSP, ASP is the Special Advisement Director, Strategic Advancement at BCSP. He can be contacted for more information about this topic here