Safety IQ: The Work Comp Playbook For Employers

After working to create a workplace safety program, you want to make sure that you can consistently push the safety message and keep all of your employees informed and active in the process. In addition to actively enforcing guidelines with positive and negative consequences, there are a few smaller things you can do to encourage a safe workplace culture. Here at Compass RMS, we call this developing your organization’s Safety IQ®. A high Safety IQ is a combination of many things: it takes into account how frequently your organization addresses workplace safety, how many members of your company are really committed to creating a better safety culture, and the different ways in which you approach the problem to ensure that you are creating the safest possible work environment. Here are some of the ways you can build a high Safety IQ at your company.

Choose a monthly theme.

You should already be having monthly (at least) meetings with management and supervisors to discuss workplace safety, but one thing that should be discussed on a monthly basis is a monthly safety theme. The safety theme can be whatever you want it to be, but it should be tailored to your business. If you work in a high-stress industry, one safety theme could be psychological health. If your jobs are physically taxing, consider devoting a month to preventing and treating injuries. You can visit OSHA’s site to see a set of their current safety themes, but we encourage you to tailor whatever you choose to your business.

Once you’ve selected your theme, you need to make sure you implement it effectively in your workplace. This starts with you making sure that everyone is well aware of the theme.

Make your workplace aware of it.

You may have informed your business about the importance of workplace safety, but do you know if it’s really sunk in? In advertising there’s a term called the “Rule of Seven”, coined by marketing expert Dr. Jeffrey Lant, which dictates that you need to see an advertisement at least seven times before you commit it to memory and really start to develop a strong opinion on it and start to take action. If you just send one email to your company or make one or two offhand comments about improving safety, that’s not going to drive your team to establish a safety culture and remember your safety theme. Instead, we encourage you to make safety awareness visible and prevalent throughout the location, and well in advance of each new monthly theme. In our Safety and HR Library, you can find hundreds of posters and other assets to physically brand your safety theme, and we also encourage that you regularly remind everyone in person, via e-mail, and during meetings.

Encourage everyone to get involved.

The organizations that have the highest Safety IQs are the ones that have good participation from all employees. You need to encourage your teams to get involved, and, more importantly, give them a reason to want to be involved with creating a safer workplace. We suggest the implementation of a safety opportunity system, where anyone can offer input on what the business is currently doing and make suggestions about how it can improve its safety even further. The reason for this is that it gives everyone an opportunity to have their voice heard, especially those employees who are not part of upper management and may not otherwise have the chance to have their voice be heard, and offers them a low-pressure way of communicating their ideas. Not everyone may be comfortable standing up in front of everyone and making suggestions, but anyone can write down their ideas and drop them anonymously into the box or thru an online portal used to capture these suggestions. If you do choose to implement a suggestion box, however, be structured. If you create a safety opportunity program you need to have a process in place where all suggestions are vetted and that there is communication back to the employees.  If they feel management takes their suggestions seriously they will be more forthcoming with future suggestions. This team engagement process will signifcantly lower accidents. The Balance recommends creating an unbiased suggestion review team to look over and discuss the implementation of the suggestions as well as creating guidelines for the types of suggestions you would like to see.

Another valuable program to implement is a Near Miss program. The National Safety Council defines a Near Miss an unplanned event that could have potentially resulted in injury, illness, damage, or death. Don’t just focus on accidents that have actually happened: near misses can be indicative of potential weaknesses in your Safety IQ that have fallen under the radar, and next time you might not be so lucky. Create a separate reporting system for near misses, and encourage employees to report near misses with positive consequences. Many employees avoid reporting these near misses because they may not feel that it is necessary or they may fear getting in trouble, but creating a non-punitive system that encourages reporting will improve safety for your company.

Finally, in Play #1 we encouraged the use of a safety perception survey, which we offer in our playbook. If your employees aren’t responding well to your safety measures, they won’t want to participate and very little will actually be accomplished. Regularly conduct surveys – particularly if you are introducing a number of new safety measures – to make sure that your safety measures are resonating well with your team.


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.