A simple scroll through any social media platform quickly confirms the Great Resignation is alive and well. Last week, the Department of Labor echoed this by releasing a report showing another 4.3 million people quit their jobs in January alone. This is a 23% increase in resignations above pre-pandemic levels.
The pandemic caused millions of people to do some soul searching and reassess what matters most to them, including how they spend their time, what their work means to them, and how they are valued in their job. For many, it was increasing a work/life balance, removing in-office stressors, or a toxic environment. Some were ready to reclaim the hours lost from commuting and traded it in for remote work.
Among the millions that made this shift, countless workers decided to leave an unsafe workplace. Whether it was an employer whose safety culture was only present on paper, leaving a team that ignored safety protocols, to management's lack of adequate training and supply of PPE.
Some left work cultures of ‘looking the other way’ or an environment with an overall attitude of ‘why should I care about safety, no one else does.’ The benefits and pay no longer outweigh the risk of injury or worse- not making it home to their family at the end of the day.
What is Safety Culture?
Safety culture is more than personal protective equipment and safety rules.
Every company has its own culture made up of a shared approach towards all elements of safety. It stems from top leadership, making its way down to every line worker. Knowledge, attitudes, behaviors, and beliefs around safety standards and practices all create a company’s safety culture.
There are several ideas and practices that can boost your safety culture and reduce injuries in your organization. Let’s take a look at three key areas safety experts recommend promoting in your workplace.
It starts with the tone at the top.
Although safety is every employee’s responsibility, workplace safety culture is largely defined by the organizations’ leaders. Leaders that have a genuine commitment to safety values and the well-being of every employee will see this same commitment move throughout each department level. Likewise, company leaders that push production speed and schedules, or are focused on cost-cutting measures can expect this same sentiment to trickle down to line workers- and risk the consequences.
Management is responsible for leading the safety charge and taking an active role in promoting workplace safety. Making a point to regularly observe safety processes in action, reviewing procedures, taking time on the work floor among workers, and attending safety meetings all demonstrate an organization's commitment and concern for their employee’s health and safety. By proactively reinforcing these safety concepts, employees will begin to take an active approach to keep themselves and their team working safely.
You can’t manage what you can’t measure.
To have a better picture of your organization's current safety status it's important to track and review specific safety metrics. When your safety strategy includes prevention metrics, you immediately put a focus on prevention and on management's radar.
Lagging indicators like near-misses and incidents are a great starting point to show how you’re safety strategies are performing and where you can improve. But what about future risk? Using leading indicators such as monthly audits and inspections to uncover potential hazards or gaps in training is recommended.
Recording and maintaining safety training records can be a daunting task but is also essential and shows that you’re not only compliant but proactively moving the safety meter. Employees at every level should be actively engaged in your safety program and everyone should be educated on the company’s safety metrics not only to adhere to them but to contribute to a safer work environment.
It’s a two-way street.
You’ve got safety posters up throughout the workplace. Employees have reviewed safety guidelines in orientation and signed off showing they’ve been trained on the safety rules. Once a year, employees complete a thirty-minute training. These are all important elements of a strong safety strategy. If this is the extent of your safety communication strategy it may be time to elevate your game.
Having open communication is a key element to any effective safety culture. It’s a consistent stream of two-way communication moving up and down the employee and leadership channels.
Safety conversations should be short and frequent becoming the norm in everyday conversations, team huddles, and weekly team meetings. Safety conversations with an employee can be utilized as a micro-training opportunity. A consistent small stream of education and review that builds on the bigger safety foundation employees receive at orientation and throughout the year.
Implementing more than one way for employees to provide feedback or voice concerns without fear of reprisal is key. Employees are the eyes and ears on the work floor. When employees see that their safety feedback, suggestions, or reporting unsafe behaviors are treated as an opportunity to learn and increase safety, trust will increase among employees and managers.
The impact of a creating strong safety culture is far-reaching and goes well beyond keeping employees safe. When a strong safety culture is thriving, it is proven to not only positively impact employees' health and safety but also reward employers with a healthier bottom line.