How to Improve Safety Culture

A Guide to Safety Success

Changing culture is difficult. It takes time to influence the behaviors, customs, and norms that make up a company’s culture so that employees can be safer and healthier.

“Culture change takes time and hard work,” says Noah Goodwin, Commercial Risk Manager at RiskSOURCE Clark-Theders. “There is no magic wand to fix everything overnight.”

We worked with Goodwin to identify 6 actionable steps that you should take to create a strong safety culture.

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1. Confirm readiness and willingness to change

The most important thing to determine when looking to improve your safety culture is your organization’s willingness to change from its current practice to a new one. In order for an organization to achieve improved workplace safety, the entire organization must embrace a safety program overhaul as an opportunity to better the overall company. If that isn’t apparent, then any effort to improve the risk management process will fall on deaf ears.

The executive team is the guide to company readiness for change. However, they are one part of a much larger whole. Every employee group within an organization must be ready and willing to improve the company’s safety practices and culture.

The people at the top are key to helping those in the field and on the ground to make a change. If the people doing the work don’t feel equipped for success, what progress will you make?

2. Analyze the current culture

If the individuals leading the company’s approach to safety identify a willingness to change, the organization must then understand the current safety culture to identify areas of opportunity for improvement.

It’s important to focus on both the strengths and weaknesses of the company. Review previous incident investigations to determine the root cause of each. This will provide a quick and detailed understanding of where a safety program can be quickly improved.

Asking yourself these 3 questions is a great start to understanding the safety culture of your current organization.

3. Implement formal and informal communication

The key to strong safety culture is communication. It is critical that safety managers and leaders communicate with their employees to both understand the areas they feel are opportunities for improvement, and to involve them in the change process.

While policies and procedures can change quickly on paper, it takes a while for them to matriculate throughout a company. However, the companies that speak candidly with their people, and are transparent about the reasons for changing the way things are done achieve the quickest and most sustainable success.

4. Prioritize a few critical activities

Identify the 3-5 areas within your safety program that, if improved, have the most impact on the overall health and safety of your people. These can include the overall approach to safety, management commitment to safety, the incident investigations process, etc. The goal is to keep the efforts of change highly specified to the areas that impact overall safety results.

A specific example of how an organization may approach a strategic change:

5. Define roles & responsibilities clearly

Involvement of all key stakeholders from the start of, and during, any change is absolutely critical. It will help to combat potential resistance to change and will generate tangible results from the bottom up.

Once you’ve identified the areas that must be improved, define quantifiable goals/deadlines and assign ownership across the organization, leveraging individuals from different roles and seniority-levels to diversify the change management team. Empower the most trusted employees to make the changes necessary to achieve safety program success.

Using the sample opportunities for improvement above, here is how you might structure your next steps:

  • Receive company-wide nominations for the safety council and confirm members by X Date
  • Research and implement a digital incident reporting software by X Date
  • Work with executive leadership team and safety council to update company safety policy, and to implement weekly communication structure by X Date

6. Measure and monitor

Ongoing feedback is critical to safety program success. Whether that feedback takes the form of day-to-day safety performance analysis or weekly progress updates across your team, it’s critical that you implement a measurable roadmap to success, and that you consistently monitor team progress towards the overall goal.

Here are some suggestions as to how you could measure and monitor the changes above:

  • Designate a recorder for each safety council meeting to maintain meeting consistency, records, and overall progress report
  • Practice active listening to determine whether unwanted occurrences are due to behavioral, physical, system, or process problems
  • Conduct a survey of all employees to understand their current sentiments around organizational safety, make necessary changes, and then conduct the same survey and compare results to determine progress

iReportSource makes the transition to safety technology easy!

Implementing a culture based on employee health and safety can be challenging, but with the right tools and approach, any organization can achieve safety excellence. iReportSource is an easy to use, collaborative and affordable tool! 

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