What is the profile of a company with a strong safety culture? We turned to Noah Goodwin of RiskSOURCE Clark-Theders to uncover the answer through the lens of a commercial risk manager.

Goodwin provides coverage and proactive strategies for companies to reduce risk at RiskSOURCE, a property casualty insurance agency and risk management company. “We are looking for the ‘intangibles’—not just the numbers such as injury rates or illness rates,” Goodwin says.

During our conversation with Goodwin, he shared 4 common marks of a company that has designed its culture with employee safety in mind.

1. Clear evidence team members value accountability. 

“In a positive safety culture, one of things we see is that an associate is able to go to a person working next to him and say, ‘I noticed that you’re not wearing your safety glasses.’ In turn, that colleague respects the other person enough to respond positively and put those glasses on,” explains Goodwin.

The values of the team, in such organizations, reinforce constructive accountability. Workers look out for one another, and have the ability to communicate to one another in a way that results in positive behaviors that support safety. Individual and team accountability also helps work against over-confidence or complacency that can happen over time. “This communication is built on mutual trust and confidence in behaviors that support taking preventative steps.”

2. Management has a visible commitment to safety.

One of the first things that indicates a company has a culture that supports worker safety and health is top management’s deep-rooted commitment and involvement with safety and health management.

“When we look at management’s commitment to safety, it has to be more than just surface level,” says Goodwin. “It really has to be to their core. They really believe that commitment to safety is an opportunity to improve the business.”

safety and improving the business

Three signs that management has a commitment to safety include:

  • Clear involvement with setting clear safety goals and/or objectives
  • Worksite policy and culture shows top management’s commitment to safety
  • All workers, regardless of position, are held accountable to safety

3. The right behaviors are celebrated.

Companies with safe, productive cultures look for opportunities to make the right behaviors as visible as possible, which serves to model and reinforce these behaviors in employees. “In a positive safety culture, the team or leadership will reward positive behaviors,” says Goodwin. Goodwin explains this kind of positive reinforcement, appreciation, and/or praise is another top sign of a company that supports the safety and health of its workers. It’s also another way that shared values and competencies can be ingrained in the culture over time.

4. Strong attention to detail.

Organizations with a strong safety culture are organizations with an attention to detail, and in turn, that helps them reduce complacency on the job. “We tend to see a correlation over a period of time between the attention to detail a company has, and cleanliness of a facility, and its safety records.”

It’s partially an attitude or mindset across the company, says Goodwin, so be sure to curb complacency on a day to day basis. “If you don’t care about the little things, you don’t clean up, or you don’t pay attention to machinery upkeep,” says Goodwin. “Or, you don’t take other steps that could help spot or prevent high risk situations. If you’re taking shortcuts in one place of the business, it shows you could be taking shortcuts elsewhere, and safety is one of the areas that gets impacted.” Whether it’s cleanliness, following processes, facility maintenance or another area, a high level of attention to detail is often found in companies with strong safety cultures.

“These are only four of many characteristics we’re looking at in terms of a good safety culture with positive safety habits and behaviors,” says Goodwin. “While looking at history is important, it is not the only answer. It cannot be the only way of measuring safety because an organization could have just been lucky, instead of good.”

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