According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), developing a strong safety culture has the single greatest impact on accident reduction of any workplace practice.
A company’s safety culture is a direct reflection of the organization’s main culture and the people who work in it. As a result, most employees will generate their perceptions of safety and its importance based on the attitude their employer projects.
The following are four main types of safety cultures commonly found in companies:
Forced Culture: A company with a forced safety culture uses bribes and threats as a way to motivate employees to keep safety top of mind. Safety managers at these organizations are seen as police-like figures. Employees view these individuals as solely in existence to catch them doing unsafe acts and to punish them. In these cultures, the employees’ fear of being punished is so overwhelming that their performance lacks, creating an unenjoyable work environment.
Protective Culture: A company with a protective safety culture imposes a substantial number of rules and regulations onto their employees. If an employee were to violate one of these rules, this may prompt management to create more rules. This ultimately creates confusion as there are too many regulating factors in place.
Involved Culture: A company with an involved safety culture provides an abundance of safety training for employees, but not top management officials. Though morale is higher at organizations with involved cultures because safety managers are not constantly policing employee actions, they also run the risk of not meeting their safety goals since management is not integrated into the safety culture.
Integral Culture: A company with an integral safety culture also provides an abundance of safety training for employees, and they are attended by individuals at all levels. In these organizations, safety officers have budgets and authority, and enforce rules when appropriate.
In a strong, successful safety culture—the Integral Culture model—everyone feels responsible for safety and pursues it daily by going beyond the “call of duty” to identify unsafe conditions and behaviors, and to intervene to correct them. In addition, coworkers look out for one another and point out unsafe behaviors to each other. As a result, a company with a strong safety culture typically experiences fewer at-risk behaviors, and consequently experiences lower accident rates, lower turnover rates, lower absenteeism, and higher productivity.
PROMOTING A SAFETY CULTURE AT YOUR ORGANIZATION
Use these strategies to develop a culture of safety:
- Develop a safety vision including goals, measures, and strategic and operational plans.
- Implement a “buddy system” with experienced workers acting as role models paired with newer workers to demonstrate safe work procedures.
- Encourage all employees to watch out for others. In doing so, this will develop safety responsibilities for all levels of the organization.
- Align management and supervisors by establishing a shared vision of safety and health goals, and objectives versus production.
- Implement a process that holds management accountable for visibly being involved, setting the proper example, and leading a positive change for safety and health.
- Management should be available during worker orientation and introduction sessions.
- Demonstrate a commitment to employee health and safety by implementing safe work practices and that unsafe actions are not tolerated.
- Encourage workers to report health and safety concerns no matter how small and respond to their concerns in a timely fashion.
- Develop a system for tracking and ensuring the timeliness of hazard corrections.
- Ensure that the organization has a system for reporting near-miss accidents, injuries, and the need for first aid.
- Promote safety training sessions and host emergency response training.
- Maintain safety equipment and ensure that it is worn properly by employees.
- Revise incentives and disciplinary systems to accommodate safety and health concerns.
For any organization looking to reduce expenses, increase productivity, and minimize turnover, developing an effective safety culture should be a top priority.