According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), an average of thirteen U.S. workers die each day from workplace injuries or illnesses, and approximately three million workers suffer non-fatal injuries or illnesses. Aside from the obvious physical harm to employees, the costs of medical payments, disrupted production, and bad publicity is huge.
A Dangerous Disconnect
Unfortunately, employees and managers are often disconnected in what they consider a sound safety culture. According to Risk Management Magazine’s article, “War on Error”1:
- Many companies have the attitude that “trying to stop human error is a fool’s errand, and that losses are simply the cost of doing business.”
- Incidents happen because employees misunderstand or misinterpret policies, processes, or job functions.
- Many companies feel that it is easier to manage error after the fact rather than prevent it.
- Traditionally, companies have measured their safety culture based simply on systems, processes and incident statistics. This one-sided approach ignores the most basic, fundamental aspect of work culture and behavior: Prevailing company values shape employee attitudes and beliefs, which then result in actions of both management and the individual worker.
You can better measure your safety culture by following these steps:
1. Establish a clearly identified program and set goals at all levels of your business.
2. Use a combination of proactive measures (before loss or potential events) and reactive measures (after loss events).
3. Measure all four elements of safety culture:
- Systems and processes
- Skills and knowledge of individuals
- Behaviors of employees
- Attitudes, perception, and leadership
How Can You Reconnect?
Many claim that effective leaders create and manage culture. This is particularly true with safety culture. Leadership has the primary responsibility for identifying needs and then fostering and sustaining the culture necessary for a sound safety environment. Following are some strategies to help you toward that goal:
- Adopt safety as a core value from top to bottom, and provide strong leadership.
- Establish and enforce high safety standards and monitor performance.
- Cultivate mutual trust by providing timely response to safety issues and concerns.
- Ensure open and effective communication and empower individuals to speak out if they perceive a safety threat.
Every Organization Needs a Safety Culture
Your challenge as a business owner is to determine the level at which your safety culture currently operates and then decide where you need to take it. Once you recognize what is at stake, you might realize this is too important to go it alone. We have experts who can help you measure, and then help you measure up. Just give us a call.