When we grew up, we were probably taught to remember to buckle our seat-belts. First by parents, later by teachers and ultimately when we learn to drive. While tougher seat belt laws have contributed to the rising use of seat belts, education and making seat belt use part of our everyday lives has contributed towards the trend and the decrease in accidents.
How much? According to the CDC, since 1975 seat belts have saved an estimated 255,000 lives.
Workplace safety culture is the same. Your company ultimately has two options, use a control-based safety environment or a commitment-based safety environment.
A control-based safety environment is based on the idea of doing the minimum needed to avoid being fined or punished. In this environment, safety is seen as a distraction from (or a hindrance to) productivity. Even when a company has safety councils in place, meetings often fail to generate positive action and safety concerns often don’t get the attention of upper management. The control-based safety environment fits into more traditional workplace models with specialized roles and rigid hierarchy.
A commitment-based safety environment means that safety is seen as everyone’s concern from the CEO down. Commitment-based safety is geared toward making safety its own reward and rewarding employees for being proactive in protecting their safety and the safety of others. Safety is seen as a necessary part of overall productivity and not as a hindrance or distraction.
While a commitment-based safety environment is collaborative and requires input from all levels of a company it has several advantages over a control-based model. Here are five examples of how a commitment-based safety environment can improve:
In a control-based safety environment, lowest-common-denominator thinking rules and employees often find themselves pulled into a race-to-the-bottom mentality. Employees who wish to do more are discouraged by their co-workers and supervisors out of fear of reprisals or unwanted attention from upper management. This environment stifles productivity and employee growth. While there may be some short-term benefits to this mode of thinking, in the long-run it can only do more harm than good.
Creating a commitment-based safety culture requires that everyone from the CEO on down, plays a positive role in creating and maintaining a safe work environment. When that kind of culture exists, employee morale improves and with it, productivity increases, and absenteeism drops.
2. PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY
In a control-based safety environment, employees often ignore safety warnings, forget to use PPE and don’t say anything if they notice a fellow employee isn’t using PPE. This leads to more accidents which can hurt morale and the company’s bottom line. In addition, supervisors need to spend more of their time “monitoring” employees to make sure they’re following safety best practices, needing to “nag” employees about these issues makes it harder for supervisors to effectively develop their teams in the long term.
When a workplace has a commitment-based safety culture, employees are more likely to take their safety and the safety of their co-workers more seriously. This means that they are more likely to use their PPE and follow safety rules without needing additional training and reminders. This also reduces the need for additional oversight from management, allowing managers to focus on growth and business optimization.
In a control-based environment, employees are hesitant to speak up when they see problems for fear of being labeled as a complainer. If they do speak up and don’t see a response to their concerns, they’re less likely to speak up again in the future.
With a commitment-based safety culture in place, employees are more likely to report potential safety issues because they believe that their concerns are being heard and taken seriously. This allows you to head off minor safety issues before they become serious concerns.
4. BOTTOM LINE
For many businesses the only thing that costs more than creating a commitment-based safety culture is not creating a commitment-based safety culture. As the workplace becomes more specialized, it is harder than ever to replace skilled workers. A workplace injury or accident cost easily cost tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills, OSHA fines and legal expenses. A fatality can easily cost in the millions. And that’s only the direct costs. In addition, businesses often find themselves facing indirect costs including recruiting and training new employees and increased insurance costs.
Having a commitment-based safety culture may require an investment at the beginning, but it can provide a positive return on investment in the long term. In fact, OSHA has determined that every dollar invested in safety provides a return of $4 to $6 in the long-term.
When employees feel that management takes their safety seriously and empowers them to make it a priority, employees are more likely to speak positively about your company. When the opposite is true, employees are more likely to air their grievances online. Don’t think this will affect your business? An Indeed survey shows that 83 percent of job seekers are likely to base their decision on where to apply based on company reviews and 46 percent will weigh a company’s reputation before accepting a job offer.
Julie Copeland www.Arbill.com