5 Ways to Change Your Workplace’s Perception of Safety
If you’ve worked in industry for any stretch of time you’ll know that attitudes toward safety can be markedly different between team members, leaders and company management. Sometimes these differences can lead to an adversarial relationship between workers and management that reduces the effectiveness of safety initiatives. Safety precautions and the seriousness they are taken in workplace can reduce injuries and save lives, so creating a culture where all parties are actively pursuing safety in a constructive way, rather than an Us vs Them culture of punitive enforcement of safety protocols (that may have shortcomings), can have huge benefits in terms of safety performance.
Changing the norms, values and attitudes of a workplace is difficult, and requires effort and persistence over a period of time, but there are definitely things you can do to smooth the way. So with a combination of research and our own experiences, we’ve come up with 5 ways to change your workplace’s perception of safety.
1. Lead by Example
It’s always important to provide a clear example of what safety and awareness looks like on the day to day. Turn up to work ready to be a leader for your team and make sure you’re always inspiring them to do the same. “Do as I say, not as I do,” is possibly the least inspiring leadership technique known to man, and it’s no different in the area of safety.
Communication helps to keep safety top of mind for your team members and management. It’s important to always communicate the ‘whys’ of safety. Not just the rules, regulations, but the reasoning behind them. People are much more likely to consistently follow a process when they understand why it exists and why certain precautions are so important. You may also want to share safety news or information to your team consistently to help provide justification and reminders for your team’s safety efforts. Which leads us to…
3. Involve team members
Creating and improving safety measures and implementing them can be difficult when you only draw on your own experiences. Speak to team members and leaders from different areas and involve them in the process of building safety culture and procedures. Some organisations create a safety committee with broad representation as a means of bringing a variety of skills and experience to bear on the development of safety systems.
Not only will this result in more universally accepted and necessary safety rules but it will also build stronger employee buy-in which will help improve the implementation of certain rules, further building upon the safety culture in the workplace.
4. Develop Positive Reporting Processes
Sometimes safety processes can make employees feel their capabilities are being restricted, creating negative attitudes towards safety. Using recognition and appraisal to reward good behaviour will always improve your team’s relationship with safety. Similarly, creating a culture where employees can report safety issues (including breaches of procedure) without fear of the personal consequences is important, particularly when it comes to self-reporting. If people fear the outcome of reporting an incident they may be tempted to “sweep it under the rug,” and the opportunity to learn from the event can be lost. Turning incidents into ‘near miss reports’ is one way in which you can turn unsafe behaviour into a positive learning outcome for the team.
5. Provide training
Providing regular and up to date training is one of the most effective ways to improve safety within a workplace. It demonstrates your seriousness and commitment towards your team’s welfare and qualifications. Training should be implemented into the onboarding process and then consistently updated over their years at the company, either annually or with regulation updates/ changes.
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