Ever wonder what is common between a baby taking its first steps and a nation sending a rocket into the orbit? One hint- both are treading into a new and hitherto unexplored orbit. The obvious answer- both are concerned about their respective safety. It is an inherent trait- to be safe at all times.
Same holds true to all walks of life- whether in day to day life or in commercial enterprises. Maintaining safety as an individual is an automatic feature but to ensure it is maintained among a group of people needs special attention. Not everyone is alike; hence a system or a code of safety needs to be drafted into the work processes in case of organizations. It is a concerted effort and requires regular monitoring.
The core idea is to prevent accidents- not just the obvious but the ‘possible’ too. Remember Murphy’s Law: “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong”. In fact, the corollary of it is that if there are two or more ways to do something, and one of those ways can result in a catastrophe, then someone will do it. Hence, the need for regular monitoring- the keyword here is “Anything”. I can go on, but you get the point, right?
In short, safety culture refers to the shared values, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors related to safety within an organization. It forms the foundation of safety excellence by promoting a proactive approach to preventing accidents, injuries, and other incidents in the workplace. A strong safety culture is crucial for ensuring the well-being of employees, reducing workplace hazards, and enhancing overall organizational performance.
Having said that, the question remains- How to build that safe culture or environment in an organization with people from diverse backgrounds and lifestyles? Though one size does not fit all, few basics are common to most organizations looking to hem in safety culture in their work sphere. Here are a few tips in achieving a near-perfect safe workplace environment. Digital solutions like SafetyApp come handy in implementing and monitoring safety norms at construction sites.
Leadership commitment: Make safety a part of your Mission & Vision statement. Safety starts at the top. Leaders must demonstrate a genuine commitment to safety by incorporating it into the organization's mission and vision, allocating resources for safety programs, and actively participating in safety initiatives. When employees witness their superiors prioritizing safety and adhering to safety protocols, they are more likely to follow suit.
Draft safety regulations for each and every process, ensure they are circulated among all human resources and they comprehend it. Conduct periodical drills to determine their adherence to safety. Develop clear and concise safety policies and procedures that align with industry best practices and relevant regulations. Make these policies easily accessible to all employees.
Identify possible risky areas of operation: Some industries or organizations have more pain points to address than others when it comes to safety. Take for example, a construction site or a heavy manufacturing industry. The human resources in such entities are exposed to more probable areas of hazards and incidents. Handling harmful chemicals is one such example. Or for that matter, moving heavy materials or dealing with high voltage power lines. These workplaces need stricter and stiffer safety regulations. And more effort needs to go into monitoring their implementation too. Regularly assess workplace hazards and potential risks. Implement processes for identifying and reporting hazards, and take proactive measures to mitigate them.
Employee involvement: Setting a code of conduct is not the end of it. The will and ability to implement as well as enforce it is equally vital for best results. “Will” comes from sense of participation. Encourage employees at all levels to actively participate in safety programs, share their insights, and contribute to safety improvement efforts. Ultimately, it is the persons working in a process or at a particular work area are the ones whose lives are being sought to be protected. Hence, their inputs are valuable and must be considered while drafting the safety norms. Involving employees in safety decision-making processes fosters a sense of ownership and responsibility.
Training and education: This is the crux of the issue. Only a properly trained workforce in matters of safety can implement the safety code in totality. It is the responsibility of the management to provide comprehensive safety training to all employees, including new hires and contractors. In fact, most entities factor safety training in their onboarding process itself. A list of “Dos & Don’ts” is an integral part of the handouts issued to new hires. Ensure that employees are well-informed about potential hazards, safety protocols, and emergency procedures.
Safety culture should be an evolving process. Regularly review safety performance, solicit feedback from employees, and implement continuous improvement initiatives to enhance safety practices. And, training is not a one-time affair- it is a continuum. Periodical tests and evaluations enable adherence to safety with commitment.
Clear communication: Establish effective communication channels to disseminate safety information throughout the organization. Displaying posters at workplaces highlighting the safety norms is one common method adopted by several organizations as part of their safety dissemination strategies. Such a strategy aids in constantly reminding the workforce about the importance of maintaining safety at work and helps in internalizing the concept as a whole. Recognize, encourage and reward open communication about safety concerns, incidents, and near-misses, and ensure that feedback is addressed promptly.
Incident reporting and investigation: More often than not, employees tend to cover up the mistakes and try to protect themselves and their coworkers from penalties when any incident or accident occurs at workplace. It is a natural response and must be discouraged at all levels. Creating a non-punitive environment for reporting incidents, near-misses, and safety concerns helps in beating this effectively. . Investigate all incidents to understand their root causes and implement corrective actions to prevent recurrence. The success of any safety norm is only as good as its reporting and rectification mechanism. A robust, rational and transparent feedback system forms the backbone of addressing, redressing and preventing hazards.
Safety must be a habit. It should be built in to the processes for a safe and healthy work environment. By implementing these strategies and nurturing a positive safety culture, organizations can build a foundation of safety excellence, which, in turn, leads to improved employee well-being, increased productivity, and a reduction in workplace incidents. Remember that building a safety culture is an ongoing effort that requires commitment and engagement from all levels of the organization.