4 Tips to Improve Your Safety Culture
Have you ever felt like you were drowning at work? I have, as I’m sure many others have as well. It was like every word I said hit a brick wall. I felt like my message consistently failed to resonate with its intended audience. The result was a very frustrated middle manager and a static safety culture.
After a few more years, and some extra “mileage” I discovered I was guilty of a pretty common generalization…I assumed that everyone had the same information, knowledge, and experience as myself – not only that, but I also assumed they would come to the same conclusions.
Thankfully, it’s now common knowledge that the richest safety cultures start at the top. You must begin with leaders to affect organizational change. So here are 4 tips to improve your safety culture.
1. Know Your Organization
You’ll never make progress harping about things that fall outside of your team’s values. One strategy to improve your safety culture is to interpret your company culture through the lens of the values espoused by your organizational leaders. Then shape your activities and reporting in ways that genuinely reflect those values and identify gaps. Take time to observe responses and develop relationships that will affect long-term change.
- Example: Leader displays a tendency to default to the most cost-effective option…
- Don’t Say: “Our best bet is “X” and it costs this much”.
- Do Say: “There are a few solutions out there, and option “X” is the best value for our dollar”.
2. Learn Executive Vernacular
There is an old saying…Go to the Romans as a roman. The most successful safety practitioners understand that “approach” is fundamental to safety success. When dealing with clients, and leaders speak in their language with terms that reflect their goals and metrics. Conveying information this way reflects business acumen they can relate to. You’ll be surprised how quickly they can support communication delivered in a method they can measure and understand.
- Example: Walkthrough reveals PPE is not being worked appropriately.
- Don’t Say: “No one is wearing their PPE”.
- Instead Say: “14 of 20 employees reviewed fell short of our PPE standard – we scored a %30”.
3. Run Better Safety Meetings
Time is money. Bad meetings waste both. Busy leaders will often be pre-occupied. Keep leaders engaged through crafted, accurate speech (also called meaningful communication). It will carry more weight and prompt action. Remember, brevity trumps rambling.
- Do Not: Ramble and try to take the spotlight.
- Be Sure To: Create a structured meeting agenda. Identify opportunities for discussion, and individual input, and accountability to tasks. Keep it short and to the point. Everyone should participate.
4. Leverage Peer Performance
Sometimes traction is difficult (not just for safety culture). People are often resistant to change. To offset that challenge, work from a position that leverages the power of accountability. Safety inspections should incorporate a 5-to-15-minute conclusion that identifies what was found, completed, and overdue.
This quick round table discussion is where completed action items are acknowledged, and overdue items require explanation. The assignee should address why the item is still outstanding and commit to a new completion date.
- Do Not: Lay blame, or browbeat.
- Be Sure To: Promote open communication, remove barriers.
Once the group recognizes that safety performance is being measured, and peers are rapidly resolving identified issues, the bar will be raised as will safety performance.
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