5 Ways You Can Help Build a Strong Workplace Culture of Safety

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Does your company have an employee safety program?

Even in organizations with largely office-based staff, keeping employee safety front-of-mind not only benefits employees and leadership by reducing lost days to illness or injury, but also communicates to employees that the company does, indeed, care about their health and well-being.

Of course, in industries including manufacturing, construction, engineering, energy and the like, environment, health and safety (EHS) is often paramount to company success. In the U.S., regulatory agencies like OSHA can shut down work sites or impose fines that can cost a company future contracts.

The problem with “no safety incidents” awards

In these organizations with a commitment to safety, consulting on the importance of recognition takes on a new level of urgency.

Nearly every company with a strong EHS program also offers some kind of incentive or reward program to encourage desired results. More rare, however, are programs that, first and foremost, reinforce desired behaviors.

Case in point: the very typical “no safety incidents” awards. These are structured quite simply such that if no incidents are incurred or reported, then employees are rewarded. But in many cases, these types of programs only serve to encourage employees to sweep incidents under the rug.

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Another challenge is the often reactive stance towards safety challenges. Far better to promote proactively desired behaviors that create a safe work environment.

5 tips for a more safety-conscious workplace

For example:

  1. Determine 3-5 core values for safety in your workplace, e.g., innovation, courage, leadership and proactive risk elimination.
  2. Structure a strategic safety recognition program to encourage anyone to recognize others when they demonstrate critical behaviors in line with these values, leading to a safer work environment. For example, recognize a colleague for “courage” when he chose to shut down a work site until an unsafe situation could be resolved.
  3. Very strongly communicate to and train employees on the new approach to recognizing and rewarding key safety values and behaviors. Make sure the emphasis is put on recognizing and rewarding daily behaviors and actions that lead to a safer work environment (and not just avoidance of safety incidents).
  4. Use the data now available to you through the safety recognition program to feature those people who more often contribute to a safe work environment.
  5. Keep the momentum going by regularly sharing detailed stories of safety recognition around a particular value each month.

What other recommendations do you have creating a strong culture of safety?

You can find more from Derek Irvine on his Recognize This! blog.

Derek Irvine is one of the world’s foremost experts on employee recognition and engagement, helping business leaders set a higher vision and ambition for their company culture. As the Vice President of Client Strategy and Consulting at Globoforce, Derek helps clients — including some of world’s most admired companies such as Proctor and Gamble, Intuit, KPMG, and Thomson Reuters — leverage recognition strategies and best practices to better manage company culture, elevate employee engagement, increase retention, and improve the bottom line. He's also a renowned speaker and co-author of Winning with a Culture of Recognition. Contact him at irvine@globoforce.com.


2 Comments on “5 Ways You Can Help Build a Strong Workplace Culture of Safety

  1. Useful list for creating a culture of safety at work. I would add investing in training to ensure employees are not just aware of safety procedures, but also have the necessary skills to ensure a safe working environment. A great example of this is language training for internationalised high risk industries such as engineering, aviation, maritime, and energy, where having the necessary language skills to communicate issues, solve problems, and respond to emergencies is essential to ensuring a safe work environment.

    Full disclosure: I represent a professional and industrial language training agency. I nonetheless think that investment in the core issues affecting health and safety is a vital element of creating a safety culture.

    Check out our work on Maritime Health and Safety: http://www.specialistlanguagecourses.com/?p=214&option=com_wordpress&Itemid=101

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