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    8 Ways to Boost Your Company's Safety Culture: Insights from a Safety Veteran

    By Joanna Cornell, Enterprise Strategic Program Partner, Lytx®

    Safety can transform an organization. Building a vibrant safety culture at the heart of your company can unite leadership and employees around a noble and ambitious goal – to protect coworkers, customers, and the public from harm. But a safety program is not a static entity. It needs tending and periodic reassessment. It evolves as your company changes and grows.

    With two decades of experience as an environmental health and safety professional for a major transportation company, I've had a hand in building such a culture, and have some insights on how to keep it relevant, engaging, and effective.

    Here are eight key tactics to employ as you build and nurture your company’s safety culture:

    1. Leadership engagement

    Safety is a business imperative, and senior management needs to treat it that way, seeing it for its awesome potential across their organization. So many times in companies you see that it’s the safety pros on staff who are the ones ‘putting out the fires,’ or leading the charge, when really, it should be leaders across all divisions. Senior management – all senior management -- needs to lead by example, visibly and actively demonstrating their commitment to safety.

    Leaders would do well to appreciate safety for its power company-wide. Safety programs can help improve productivity, reduce liability, and boost employee morale. Employees see that you are not taking shortcuts and that you have their back. That’s powerful!

    2. Employee involvement

    The most effective way to get someone invested in a cause is to make it personal. Solicit their opinion or demonstrate how it affects them directly. Employees often have valuable insights into potential hazards, safety improvements, and process efficiencies, so why not make them part of the safety solution?

    Your company’s safety committees should consist of employees at all levels – management, non-management, and everywhere in between. It builds trust because they are being heard on something that matters to everyone. Trust empowers employees to say something when they see something – an equipment hazard, a safety infraction, a process that can be improved. When employees feel that their company is looking out for them, they are more likely to look out for the company.

    3. Embrace technology

    Be forward thinking. Be sure to make room in your safety program for the many truly groundbreaking technological advances that can help in safety training, tracking, monitoring, and calibrating. From AI and robotics to dash cams and sensors, emerging technologies galvanize your efforts and help you keep pace with advances in machinery, vehicles, and other equipment. Safety and innovation can work together to create a safer and more productive work environment.

    Technology is not going anywhere. Learn about it. Assimilate it. Leverage it to make your safety program as effective and efficient as it can be.

    4. Training and education

    A safety culture is dynamic -- constantly evolving to address emerging risks. So, too, should your safety training! Training and education have moved far away from paper and PowerPoint to interactive learning experiences. Offering a diverse set of training options can help reinforce critical safety concepts. This is particularly important when introducing new technologies where new safety concepts may need to be introduced.

    Offering a diverse set of training options can help reinforce critical safety concepts.

    Another key factor is making sure management understands the training. The focus seems to be predominantly on employees, but management needs to be brought into the discussions on how to train, how to reinforce the concepts, and how to have the right conversations.

    5. Communication

    Foster open communication channels where employees feel comfortable reporting incidents and suggesting improvements without fear of reprisal. Encourage a speak-up culture where safety concerns are promptly addressed. Promote transparency by sharing information about safety performance, incidents, and corrective actions taken. Transparency builds trust, active participation, and accountability.

    6. Recognition and accountability

    Positive reinforcement encourages a proactive approach to safety and reinforces desired behaviors. Department- or org-wide celebrations of safety milestones demonstrate the value you place on safety practices.
    Recognition also builds momentum and visibility and taps into friendly competitive instincts.

    Work to incorporate a proactive approach to safety rather than putting all your efforts toward rewarding employees for a lack of incidents. Shift the emphasis to recognize participation in safety programs, use of new safety technologies, and vigilance in reporting near misses.

    7. Continuous improvement

    Foster a culture of continuous improvement by regularly reviewing and updating safety procedures. Keep pace with evolving challenges and risks by staying attentive, agile, and adaptable. Continuous improvement is key to staying ahead of emerging threats, so take care to encourage a proactive mindset where employees are empowered to identify and address potential hazards before incidents occur.

    Continuous improvement is key to staying ahead of emerging threats, so take care to encourage a proactive mindset where employees are empowered to identify and address potential hazards before incidents occur.

    8. Safety knowledge

    Knowledge is power when it comes to mitigating risks and preventing incidents. When they are well-informed, employees are more likely to adhere to safety protocols and promote safe practices. This fosters a culture where safety is seen as a shared responsibility and encourages everyone to play his or her part in maintaining that safe work environment.

    Nurture a strong safety culture with consistent effort and unwavering commitment from leadership, employees, and stakeholders across the organization. Encourage a proactive mindset and empower your people to be part of the safety solution and your safety culture will remain meaningful, engaging, and effective.