Jason Kravik, CSP, is senior director, global EHS for Corelle Brands, which owns OLFA.
Why prioritizing worker safety makes good business sense
Most trends come and go, but some have staying power. As more companies find that strong safety performance drives overall business performance, safety is finally getting its due recognition as a trend that’s here to stay.
Many companies have transformed the way they perceive safety. Sometimes it’s a business necessity; other times, it’s initiated by an individual or group who has seen how a focus on safety can positively impact employee wellness and company culture. The most successful businesses have safety as a core value, and safety managers and leaders are viewed as integral partners.
5 Best Practices to Boost Your Safety Culture
Best-in-class safety performance requires buy-in at every level, and that means integrating safety into every facet of the business. When responsibility for safety is shared at all levels of an organization, the organization—not a single department or person—becomes accountable for performance.
Recognition and accountability, leadership commitment, training, communication, observations and audits, and clear roles and responsibilities all play a part in building a strong safety culture. These five key best practices can guide companies and safety managers looking to change the way their employees view safety:
- Establish an organizational structure around safety that delineates clear roles, responsibilities and accountability levels to promote the implementation of the safety management system. Engagement is a critical factor in this design. Formal health and safety committees comprising management, employees and safety leaders (and union leaders, if applicable) are a key component. Committees should meet frequently to share action plan progress and current performance, work through plant- or facility-level issues, and set policies and practices. For multi-site manufacturing or construction organizations, this is especially helpful because different locations can learn what others are experiencing or doing and implement the necessary best practices to prevent incidents.
- Create a detailed action plan with clear objectives (such as the launch of a new process/program, training initiatives, continuous improvement actions, etc.), timing and accountability for actions that will bring improved performance. Accountability may lie with more than one individual (i.e. one employee may have primary responsibility over the objective and delegate additional actions that will help meet the objective to other employees).
- Safety is a team sport, so ensure your safety managers talk with each other and with other safety professionals frequently, both formally and informally. Sharing ideas, policies and technical tips regularly will help build a strong, networked team. A company-wide, centralized safety team with a standardized meeting schedule is one formal way of facilitating this type of information exchange.
- Don’t forget about the employees; employee engagement is a key factor for safety success. Here at Corelle, in addition to the standard compliance and leadership training, we’re rolling out training programs that show what actions employees can personally take to improve their own and the safety of others. This kind of program is intended to empower all employees to be advocates for safety and may spur them to become more involved in safety committees and initiatives. The most successful safety programs have a culture of active leadership that continuously supports employee engagement.
- Recognize employees who demonstrate a focus on safety. Recognition can take many forms depending on your individual business, but it’s important to recognize people who go above and beyond in the name of safety. People want to be part of something successful; if you advertise those successes to show others they can be involved in a productive way, a focus on safety will grow organically, and it will be perpetual.
Make Safety a Priority
Safety is a predictor of how other parts of a business perform because the attitudes, mindsets and behaviors required to manage safety effectively also are needed to effectively manage quality and productivity. So, if you aren’t managing safety, you may not be managing other parts of the company optimally, either.
Safety not only helps the bottom line, but also boosts competitive advantages. In parts of the country with low unemployment, hiring quality employees can be a challenge, and having a strong safety culture is a major selling point—both for job recruitment and employee retention. People want to work in a safe, clean environment and know that they will go home to their families at the end of the workday in the same condition in which they came to work.
Getting your employees engaged in and taking pride in their work, as well as proving that leadership supports them, will boost employee retention and make your business an employer of choice, meaning safety makes good business sense.