Workplace Safety Standards and Culture

For any business that employs workers, keeping employees safe and motivated should be a going concern. In an office environment risks are typically quite a bit lower.

If you are running a business that employs trades, operates machinery, involves drivers, involves health related occupations, etc… the risks of serious workplace incidents go way up.

I like to assume that all business owners and leaders actually care about the employees getting seriously injured or killed. We are talking employees who are real people and whose lives can be impacted significantly.

There are other risks for businesses as well:

  • Higher premiums for workers compensation and insurance,
  • Fines and penalties,
  • Personal liability or even jail time if the accident was caused by negligence or intentional violation of safety legislation.

So it is clear you need to reduce risk for business and human reasons.

Know What You Want

If you are going to be spending time, effort and money on implementing safety it pays off to know what your objective is.

You need to set the standards.

Setting the standards (policies) doesn’t just mean the end result, i.e. “stay safe”. It means being clear on the behaviors that will and will not be tolerated. It means communicating those standards.

In a lot of cases, the same mindset you use to ensure quality work is the same mindset you use for workplace safety.

Then have zero tolerance for activities that violate your standards.

Know How to Get It

The second piece is to be clear on how you are going to get there.

Create your systems and procedures.

Procedures and processes are the details of how things are done right here.

If your standard is that all materials on the roof must be secured at all times to prevent them from being blown off in high winds then your procedure tells people how to secure things. What does it look like and how do they get there.

How will you ensure everyone knows what the policies and procedures are? Do you have a process in place to perform checks? Report incidents or near misses? To learn and prevent future incidents? Deal with evolving risks?

This then becomes your safety system.  Systems are just the way you ensure things get done right every time.

Make Sure It Happens

Of course, systems operated by people have a tendency to drift out of conscious thought and become bad habits.

Implement measurement and training to make sure safety happens. Always.

Training and retraining is important to reinforce the standards and procedures until they become ingrained habits.

Instituting checks and balances to ensure that someone is looking for trends indicating that fixes or retraining are required. This is where measuring for success becomes powerful.

What gets measured tends to improve.

If you are setting your workplace safety up right means containing your costs and risks.

Don’t leave safety until after a serious injury or death. The consequences are too high.

Long Live Your People

Here is where the magic happens. Once you:

  • Set the standards and policies
  • Create your systems and procedures
  • Implement measurement and training

And you are serious about safety…

You bake it into your culture. Safety becomes part of your core values.

No one is exempt from your values.

You make it ok for a junior roofer to tell the foreman that he can’t come up on the roof without a safety harness. You make sure the president is wearing a hard hat, safety boots and eye protection on the job site.

You might not be able to totally eliminate workplace risk, but you have done what it takes to minimize it.