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December 24, 2012

Safety As A Culture – Your Recipe For Success

Summary:

Create a culture of safety within your organization. By doing this, you will help establish a process-mindedness that can spill over into the other business disciplines: lead generation, sales, shipping, etc. Everything you do is borne out of your safety culture.

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You may have heard the saying “Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.” Then consider this one: “Show me your safety culture and I’ll show you your company’s future.” Here is an outline of what we will cover in this article:

  1. Go Big — Safety as a Culture not as a Program
  2. Getting Started
  3. Measuring Your Progress
  4. Refining Your Process

Go Big — Safety As A Culture Not As A Program
The safety umbrella is broadly defined. For some, safety is a specific program. For others, it is a way of life. Let me submit to you that safety is a mindset, a culture, an attitude. Safety is all encompassing. Its presence or absence will have a profound impact on your organization. Safety should not be merely an isolated component of your company’s overall strategy but more of a culture of process-mindedness.

As mentioned, some companies approach safety as an isolated program (e.g. like marketing, research and development, etc.). Companies that adopt this “silo” approach to safety — as is typical of other business processes — may find the mark being missed. I have found that the most successful organizations have adopted a culture of safety. In these companies, safety is not a silo but rather the bedrock and foundation for all the other business processes.

Getting Started
Whether your company is a recent start-up or well underway, here are some things to consider. Do not consider this list as a recipe but more as ideas for key ingredients that will help define your safety culture. This list is not all inclusive and you don’t need to limit yourself to the items shown:

  1. A culture of safety must be adopted by you, your leadership team, and your entire organization.
  2. Adopt safety as your most important core value.
  3. Decide your desired metric for safety. Is your goal to only have 5 accidents per year? 3 accidents per year? Of course not, we can all identify the ridiculousness of such a metric. Shouldn’t the ultimate goal be to have ZERO accidents and injuries? Let’s be idealistic rather than realistic!
  4. Implement your company’s safety process:
    1. Indoctrinate new hires into your safety culture.
    2. For construction or “active” companies, consider identifying requisite safety gear (e.g. eye protection, gloves, ear plugs, etc.). Make sure everyone has the items and audit employees on the job for proper use.
    3. Establish new hire drug screens, DMV, and background checks.
    4. Incentivize executives and employees based upon safety performance.
    5. “Catch” employees doing the right things and working safely and reward them.
    6. Create guidelines for a safe work area or work site, etc.
  5. If you do have an accident/incident, immediately debrief the matter and consider adopting a mitigating correction to prevent the incident from recurring.
  6. Have regular (should we say, weekly?) safety meetings.
  7. Put everyone on the “Safety Committee” such that hazards are identified and corrected by employees performing their normal duties before things happen. A culture of safety not only allows — but encourages and empowers — employees to genesis ideas for improving safety policies and/or eliminating unsafe or risky practices.
  8. Create safety “billboards” that indicate your company’s safety track record.

Again, the above are ideas, and the list can be augmented and improved upon.

Measuring Your Progress
As you embark upon your journey and define your safety culture, it is very important to establish metrics to measure your success. I recommend tracking your progress and emphasizing positive developments; however, actual accidents/incidents should not be overlooked or hidden but analyzed.

Following are some positive metrics: create a checklist to ensure each new employee is given a new hire safety orientation, track “safe days” (e.g. no accidents/injuries since …), publish new ideas submitted and implemented by employees, have safety drawings for a safe month, etc., compare your safety record for the current quarter to the prior quarter and the prior year’s quarter, reward employees when you “catch” them working safely, etc.

An important side note is that your annual insurance renewals are a litmus test for how your culture of safety is working for you. Is your worker’s comp experience mod going down, are your claims less in frequency and in size, is your liability policy premium lower? Think of your insurance renewal process as a report card of how you are doing.

Refining Your Process
Can you think of a great company that wasn’t safe? We can all recount some past incidents that may have happened to some great companies. The great ones don’t run from their challenges — they face them, live up to them, and get better from them. I believe we should strive for perfection — as elusive as that is; however, if and when something unforeseen happens, it is important to debrief the situation and identify how to prevent that item from happening in the future.

Conclusion
I want to encourage you to create a culture of safety within your organization. I believe that by doing this, you will help establish a process-mindedness that can spill over into the other business disciplines: lead generation, sales, shipping, etc. Everything you do is borne out of your safety culture.

Over my career, I have audited, worked for, and consulted with a multitude of companies. Those that do well seem to have had the safety issue figured out — and as a result — had the rest of their ducks in a row.

As flour is to cake so is safety to your company. Safety is the basis (and core building block) for the success of your company. The key is to go “all in” on your safety culture and to keep an attitude of continuous improvement in all you do. Keep up the great work!