What has to be present to foster a safe and healthy culture? And what supports an environment that enhances employee engagement and job satisfaction? To answer these two questions, we sat down with Jake Woolfenden, Owner of Summit Safety Group, a safety consulting group company that works with companies across the nation.

Woolfenden has been personally touched by the harsh realities of workplace injuries when his father had a near death accident on a construction project several years ago. He saw the physical and psychological struggles that resulted from this injury and the years it took his father to recover. He and his team use countless experiences like this to fuel their purpose in educating the workplace on the value of life and all things safety.

Woolfenden helped us to identify 9 factors that should be a part of any safety leader’s checklist when it comes to improving safety. Keep reading for more information on the safety checklist found below:

  1. Support for behavior-based safety.
  2. A formalized safety policy.
  3. Strong and effective safety leaders.
  4. A discipline system that’s implemented across the organization.
  5. Empowered and motivated employees.
  6. Comfort with reporting issues related to safety.
  7. Effective and regular communication about safety and health.
  8. A high-functioning safety committee.
  9. Utilization of both leading and lagging indicators of safety.

1. Support for behavior-based safety.

Yes, safety professionals seek to improve outcomes and lower cost, but what does your organization have in place that helps to build behavior-based safety practices? Is that kind of support sustainable? And, as a safety professional, are you able to reinforce best practices on a regular basis? If you can’t confidently answer “yes” to all those questions, it may be time to look at the support you have for safety in your organization.

For instance, a transportation company might identify that there are more accidents after the first 90 days of employment. Why? Because new drivers were getting comfortable and were more complacent. So a “re-training” program was put in place at the 90-day mark.

2. A formalized safety policy.

Going above and beyond the “minimum” when it comes to safety includes having a safety policy that is fully embraced. And, having a written and shared safety policy is one of the fundamental factors that shows an organization is committed to safety. Every single worker should be familiar with the safety policy and it should be updated in a timely manner when changes need to be incorporated.

“Not only should it be written, but we’re looking for it to be actively lived out each day. That includes consistent, proactive safety audits, site inspections, hazard identification, and regular interactions to ensure employees know and live the policy—and that risks are discussed and corrected quickly in the company,” says Woolfenden.

3. Strong, effective and capable safety managers who uphold safety standards.

Having the right people in the right roles is key to supporting a safe culture. “Who is actually in that safety manager role? Are they truly a safety manager and leader? Do they lend themselves to being a ‘people-person’ where they can build relationships and bridge those gaps, and create change management?” says Woolfenden.

Woolfenden sees many organizations that promote someone who does well in one role, into an entirely new role as a safety manager. Just because they do well in one position for the company, doesn’t necessarily mean they are equipped to be a safety manager.

Ideally, you have someone who is in the right role as a leader, who wants to be a in a managerial position, and is also someone who is willing to spend time with frontline workers. This is someone who has to understand the value in spending time on the floor.

“What you want to avoid is the safety manager that hasn’t invested that time to get to know the people that they’re actually going to help—and then the employees see them as almost a hall monitor or somebody that’s there to tell on them, if that person is not getting to know them.” It’s about having someone in the role who cares deeply about safety, and also cares about relationship-building in the field—as a manager, explains Woolfenden.

If you think you have a gap in this area, realize this isn’t something that can change overnight in your culture. Take the time to do what it takes to cultivate and to hire safety managers that will uphold the standards you want them to.

4. A discipline system that’s implemented and applicable to all employees.

Next on the list: having a disciplinary action policy that’s fully adopted by the company. Woolfenden says you can consider 3 things with your policy to promote workplace safety:

  1. Be sure it’s written. A written policy that outlines the step-by-step process you will follow if a safety protocol is broken or is being broken goes a long way. “In many cases, if it’s not written, it’s not real,” argues Woolfenden. “That’s huge when it comes to creating accountability” and accountability is going to play a major factor in your safety program’s success.
  2. Make sure the policies apply to every single employee. “If you aren’t consistent, you’re leaving yourself wide open to issues. Think through the tough scenarios, and apply discipline at an equal level with all employees.”
  3. Be diligent to your own disciplinary process. “Be sure you are using your disciplinary policies, so everyone knows [and respects the] proper execution of your safety program,” he says.

safety and being consistent

Other factors that impact your culture include having empowered and motivated employees; the ability for workers to report issues related to safety; effective and regular communication about safety and health; and last, a high-functioning safety committee.

Check back in next week for part two in the series with Woolfenden on more ways you can improve your safety culture.

UPDATE: See the rest of the 9 factors on the checklist here.

Smart Workplace Safety Pays

You know that safety pays: it improves the top line, bottom line and most importantly, protects your most valuable resources – your employees. See up-to-date stats and figures that prove why every dollar invested in workplace safety pays off in iReport’s Workplace Safety Infographic. Get the free download here.