In this article, we discuss four common barriers that your organization may encounter on your journey to implementing a culture of safety.
It goes without saying that workplace safety should be a top priority in any organization. A strong safety culture protects your employees, equipment and organization as a whole. So what happens if you encounter resistance when developing a culture of safety in your workplace?
In this article, we discuss four common barriers that your organization may encounter on your journey to implementing an effective safety culture and why you should make a commitment to safety.
Four Barriers to Overcome To Establish a Culture of Safety
A positive safety culture isn’t built overnight, but acknowledging the obstacles to overcome is a great place to start. You will never completely eliminate human error, but formulating a plan that prioritizes safety procedures with processes to continuously improve can make all the difference in the world. To do that, we will discuss four of the greatest barriers to overcome: attitude, defining roles, proper training, and how to build the infrastructure for a culture of safety.
1) Attitude – We're in This Together
The attitude of an organization, from CEO down to the overnight janitor, goes a long way when implementing a culture of safety.
- A true safety culture for an organization starts at the top. Without the active support and engagement of senior leaders, safety initiatives can be easily dismissed or ignored.
- If employees are not engaged in the safety process, they may not feel empowered to speak up about safety concerns or share their ideas for improving safety issues in the workplace.
- A lack of trust, or leaders who focus on the past, can frame any change as a negative, so it’s important for management and employees to work together.
Ask leadership to be vocal supporters of your safety program. Address any obstacles or misconceptions quickly. Also, encourage employee feedback and conversation in a positive manner and highlight supporters at all levels.
2) Roles, Responsibilities and Staffing
Confusion or uncertainty over roles and responsibilities can lead to backlash when implementing a culture of safety, so it’s important to establish and uphold clear positions from the beginning.
Maintaining adequate staffing is an issue that most organizations are dealing with on a daily basis. When organizations are understaffed, it leads to burnout and extra stress for the workforce. Tired, stressed, distracted, and unengaged workers may be more prone to mistakes or errors. When implementing a safety program, it's important to be mindful of staffing issues and to go at a pace that doesn't overwhelm your workers.
Even the best safety program in the world will be ineffective, if the workers are too tired, rushed or frazzled to adhere to it. Creating a methodical approach to incident reporting of accidents (or adverse events in the health care industry) can help keep workers focused during safety problems or emergencies.
Create a safety team involving employees from all levels of management and designate specific employees for various roles. Make it easy for employees to contact and provide feedback to this team and liaison with outside stakeholders as needed.
3) Take Time for Training
Whether it’s making changes to an existing safety program or rolling out a new one, properly trained employees can become the best advocates for your new culture of safety. Invest time and money in training your team members and then allow them to use their expert knowledge to lead the way in fostering your new culture of safety.
Employees require clear instructions about what’s expected of them, with detailed guidelines and responsibilities for each role in the organization. If training messages are unclear, inconsistent or hurried, employees may not understand the importance of safety or know what is expected of them. Address frustrations as your employees are learning, and make sure their responsibilities are well understood.
Another great way to train your employees, while raising safety awareness, is to observe safety events in your organization. Observing electrical safety month or national safety stand down week, for instance, can achieve this goal.
4) Build an Infrastructure that Establishes a Culture of Safety
Building a culture of safety doesn’t happen overnight. It’s normal to experience bumps or setbacks as it is adopted across an organization. Make sure that your system and structure are designed to support your teams, and don’t be afraid to expand or scale back your program as needed.
Also, provide a clear transition plan and communicate updates and progress frequently. Allow plenty of time for change and recognize all positive developments (even small improvements).
Culture of Safety Conclusion
In conclusion, breaking down the barriers to creating a culture of safety requires a multi-faceted approach that involves leadership commitment, employee engagement, adequate resources, effective communication, and ongoing training and education. Adhering to these core principles will be the catalyst for bringing a culture of safety to your organization.
If you are looking for help or assistance with creating a culture of safety for your organization, Wesco Safety offers safety consulting services to develop or review current safety programs. If you need any help, please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions.