Compliance Personnel Safety Training

Establish A Safety Culture

EP Editorial Staff | December 1, 2021

How workers perform, act, and behave when no one is watching will tell you a lot about whether safety is a priority or a culture.

By Ryan Dobbins, CSP, CHST, CIT, CUSP

In the manufacturing world, priorities constantly change to keep up with scheduling, customer demands, and production quality. One factor that should remain paramount is worker safety and health. Safety efforts at our workplaces should never be viewed as “our top priority,” because we consistently encounter examples where we need to adapt to changing situations and the “safety priority” can often be one of those adaptations. Instead, all levels of the company should view safety as a core value of their organization, i.e., values that stay with us regardless of priority. These values must be driven from the top down and practiced again from the bottom up to effectively establish a safety culture. 

It’s important to define what that culture is throughout your organization. I choose to describe safety culture as the way a worker performs, acts, and behaves when no one is watching.

In your organization, does a safety inspection occur only when a member of the corporate team visits the facility? In these situations, we tend to take extra time cleaning and organizing workstations, warning the production floor staff that “corporate” is coming, and, typically, behaving differently when we know a high-ranking official is going to be observing. If you’ve answered “yes” to these questions, you may have an opportunity to expand on your organization’s safety culture. 

In a work environment with a strong safety culture, we don’t have to prepare every time the leadership team is conducting a safety walk or “be on our best behavior” when a corporate executive visits the facility. In other words, this is how everyone always works and acts, because safety is a core value, not the priority for the day. 

Establishing an effective safety culture takes constant attention, growth, and continuous improvement by all members of the organization. Most important, the journey toward a safety culture has no end date. To help establish and expand on your organization’s safety culture, here are a few steps to move your efforts forward:

• Invest in safety training, human performance tools, and new technology to assist in safety performance.

• Identify and track safety performance indicators to learn about trends and mitigate hazards.

• Listen and learn from production workers, as well as leadership, while showing genuine care and commitment toward their safety and well-being.

• Provide a platform for workers to openly discuss and share safety concerns without fear of retaliation, while dedicating resources to address those concerns.

Set goals and a vision for safety culture around which the entire organization can rally. EP

Ryan Dobbins is a Safety Services Manager at Safety Management Group, Columbus, OH, (safetymanagementgroup.com). He is a Certified Safety Professional (CSP), Project Management Professional (PMP), Construction Health & Safety Technician (CHST), Certified Instructional Trainer (CIT), and Certified Utility Safety Professional (CUSP). Contact him at RyanDobbins@safetymanagementgroup.com.

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