Whenever I interview a senior manager about their company’s safety program, I start by asking them for their assessment of the company’s program. Inevitably, the answer is positive. Then I ask the more relevant question: “What would your employees say if I asked them the same question?” Realistically, that’s the only answer that matters.
If your employees don’t believe in your safety program, it really doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. Put another way, if your employees don’t believe that safety is a very high priority to the company, then they won’t treat it as such, and the result is likely to be a high frequency of injuries.
The key to having an effective safety program that minimizes injuries and claims is to convince your employees that safety is your priority. That’s it. Accomplish that, and you will have a safer company.
The good news is that it is not an insurmountable challenge. I’ll use the example of a client of ours in the consumer products business to illustrate how it can be done.
The company had a new president who determined that the way to differentiate his company from the myriad of competitors was to focus on customer service.
Understanding that simply saying he wanted better customer service was not enough, he took the following steps:
• Weekly meetings to review the response time to orders. Records kept
• Review of every complaint, and how were they handled. Records kept
• Recognition and accolades for jobs well done, in a public forum
• Open discussion of screw ups or unnecessary delays.
• Visibility through newsletters and other communication channels
What he succeeded in doing, in a short period of time, was convincing everyone that customer service was now an absolute priority to him, and they needed to make it a priority to them. Obviously, customer service improved.
The same approach can be taken to safety, with only slight modifications.
1. Declare that safety is a company priority
2. Hold meetings on a regular basis where safety is discussed, injuries and their causes are reviewed, and suggestions for improvements made
3. Provide recognition, attaboys, and incentives to both departments and individuals for safety accomplishments.
4. Openly discuss injuries and near misses, with an emphasis on how they could have been avoided. Shine a light on unsafe behavior.
5. Give safety visibility with posters, pictures, newsletter articles, etc.
6. Keep records of safe days by both company and department. Create positive peer pressure to excel.
7. Be sincere. Demonstrate that it’s a true priority by having upper management attend safety meetings and personally recognize safety achievements.
When employees understand what the company’s priorities are, they respond. Simply stating that something is a priority is not only insufficient; it can actually work against you. Everything a company does after that is a proof statement, with employees evaluating whether the company really means it, or is just saying the words. When the company demonstrates that safety is important, it reinforces their credibility, and sends a clear signal to every worker that he / she needs to make safe behavior their own individual priority.
Article written by Joseph Stevens,
President of Bridge Safety Consultants
About the Author’s Company:
Bridge Safety Consultants provides overall strategies and specific programs to help companies reduce their workers’ comp costs. Bilingual safety trainers go on-site to provide a full range of training and leadership at safety meetings. Learn more at: