Becoming a Leader Who “Gets It”: How To Develop a Work Culture of Safety (Part 2)

Around this time of year, many people like to start thinking about their New Year’s resolutions and setting goals for how they can improve themselves in the coming year. This isn’t just a practice for individuals; it’s also a great time for you to look at your business over the past year and think about what has worked and what should be changed. As an employer, all safety culture improvement attempts will start at the top with you. Last week, we discussed 2017’s leaders who “get it” and how their efforts have led to a marked improvement in their workplace’s safety culture, and that can be you next year.

Over the course of 2017, I have been blogging about my comP4 process and outlining each of the 22 plays in the Work Comp Playbook. In my previous blog, we discussed the importance of leadership in the comP4 process, and this final blog for 2017 will be about taking action. Here are ten action steps you can take to improve your safety culture in the upcoming year.

  1. Develop Safety Committees and define the goals and objectives for each committee. The establishment of these committees will facilitate action. But don’t think that their presence is enough: you need to clearly define roles and goals for not only the committees but also their individual members, and have a well-organized agenda. Curtis Chambers, owner of OSHA Training Services, has said about safety committees, “The most common mistake I see is when a company or organization sets up a safety committee just for the sake of having a safety committee.”
  2. Improve your organization’s Safety IQ®.  Remember, safety is not a once-a-month activity. You may choose monthly safety themes, but find ways to promote safety every day!
  3. Enforce accountability. Create a process that holds everyone accountable for being visibly involved, especially managers and supervisors. Remember, supervisors provide the day-to-day leadership that promotes safety, so you should be leading by example.
  4. Training: do everything you can to minimize learning scrap. Simply put, maximize the time spent with employees on safety training. You should never think of training as just another routine operation in your company. Every meeting and every training session is an opportunity for you and your team to refresh your memory and learn new ways to keep your workplace safe. Be engaged with safety training, and work to make it engaging for your employees as well.
  5. Improve your organization’s Claims IQ®. Get a claims dashboard report from your insurance broker so you can discuss safety each month at your managers meetings, and consider posting a heat map on your employee bulletin board to increase their awareness about injuries in the workplace.
  6. Implement a safety assessment and near miss program. Understanding potential hazards before the incident happens is always the best strategy. Create an environment that encourages your employees to discuss near misses with you; if you want, you can rebrand them as “good catches” or another phrase with a more positive sound, or provide incentives for reporting one. Whatever you call it, the important thing is that you encourage your employees to be proactive about looking for potential safety hazards and nipping them in the bud before they can cause harm.
  7. Rethink your incident analysis process.  Does it currently uncover the root cause of accidents? Is your investigation process thorough and organized? Does everyone know their role in an incident analysis? Once you’ve uncovered the root cause, how do you use this knowledge going forward?
  8. Develop a program on progressive discipline that is enforceable. Make sure that your discipline program is organized, fair, clearly communicated to your employees, and thoroughly documented. The point of a discipline program is to deter bad or unsafe behavior; you don’t want to give anyone cause for a lawsuit.
  9. Always remember to celebrate success.  Endorse the safety behavior you want to see in the workplace. However, when doing so, make sure not to fall into the trap of only rewarding good results. Instead, look a little further and reward those who are consistently exhibiting good behavior. This will encourage workplace safety without potentially driving people to inflate results or refrain from reporting a negative incident just for the sake of an incentive.
  10. Develop an annual plan to stay on track.  Review the plan at the end of the year and then set your safety goals for the next year. I hope that, in the course of this blog post, you’ve been thinking about your organization’s current safety practices and gotten some new ideas for the coming year. Once you’ve created the plan, open it up to your employees and let them offer their ideas and input. You want to make sure that they are fully informed of how to maintain a safe workplace, and they might surprise you with some additional safety measures!

I know that building a safety culture can seem like a daunting task. If you start by implementing these 10 steps, you will give yourself the momentum your organization needs to become an interdependent safety culture. Good luck, and have a happy (and safe) holiday.

About Compass RMS

The risk management firm Risk Management, Inc. has specialized in workers’ compensation since 1996, creating the CWCP (Certified Workers’ Compensation Professional) program in 1999 and the P4 process in 2000. We launched our Compass Risk Management platform in 2008 and recently released version 4.0. For more information about our services, give us a call at (770) 534-2042 to speak with one of our consultants.