Safety Culture: The Bottom Line
By: Christin Adams
When we hear the phrase bottom-line, in business, we generally think in terms of dollars. When your business is safety, however, there is something more valuable at stake. Every day, we all go to work, or our friends and families do. Our children ride school buses. We are a society in motion. We rely on first responders in crisis and first aid when minutes matter. We also depend on our dollars to support those services and skills because human life is valuable and that is money well spent.
With just over 5,000 national workplace fatalities in 2017, a number that has been steadily climbing each year for the past five years, we understand the great financial cost inherent in each of these tragedies. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that in total, employers are spending $1 billion each week on worker’s compensation costs. These numbers are important for businesses, but their employee’s well-being is more important. By focusing on employee safety, direct and indirect costs for businesses and their insurers are greatly reduced.
The key to an impactful safety culture is relationships.
So how do we get an organization to become safer? There are plenty of quantifiable means and they are all used on a daily basis: topical safety meetings, focused training classes, audits, stop work measures, etc. These are all essential to spreading awareness and building the correct habits; but talk to just about anyone that wears a hard hat for a living, and they will tell you they don’t want to sit through a class or do extra paperwork – they just want to get to work. The key to an impactful safety culture is relationships.
In fact, value is created through relationships in the work place. In an organization with a healthy safety culture, everyone, from the entry level laborers all the way to the executive leadership team, must buy-in and take responsibility for each other’s safety. And when any part of the organization does not, the rest suffer. If you have a great team on the front lines of your business, a team that looks out for each other, creates and reviews thorough job safety assessments at the start of each shift, documents near misses, and practices stop work authority when appropriate you’re half way there. You also need support from upper management in the form of new hire training procedures and investment in proper safety equipment and protective gear. Without the relationship between these, at some point the inevitable will happen. Someone will get hurt.
Safety is the result of a thriving company culture.
Companies must not forget that safety is about people. Safety is the result of a thriving company culture. Building a strong safety culture starts from the top and works its way to the bottom. Although, if we flip that thought process and give employees the power and initiative to create a safety culture, they are still going to follow the leadership displayed to them. Understand your employees and work alongside them, not above them.