What does measuring safety culture look like at your organization? For most, the answer includes a combination of workplace inspections, audits, incident reports, and training programs. Some organizations go a step further and require training quizzes to assess and document comprehension. But is this enough?
The Importance of Measuring Safety Culture
Safety programs using these methods check the regulatory boxes, but they generally stop short of proactive review and improvement.
Inspections, audits, and incident reports provide useful snapshots and help identify gaps, but they only identify issues after they’ve occurred. Training is generally more proactive, but many organizations have infrequent training programs, with most defaulting to an annual refresher training format.
In contrast, proactive safety programs are constantly monitoring, assessing, and improving safety culture. When done well, this shifts the program from reactive maintenance to continual oversight and risk mitigation.
How to Improve
The following questions can serve as a starting point for thinking about and measuring safety culture more proactively:
- Could all at risk employees correctly assess and clean a hazardous materials spill?
- Are they provided the appropriate training, resources, and materials?
- Would employees know who to contact if external support is required?
- Could all supervisors effectively guide an injured employee through the post-incident treatment and reporting process?
- Do supervisors receive the same training as at risk employees?
- Should they?
- Do all company executives understand the organization’s regulatory and safety liabilities?
- What safety training and insight are they provided?
- How involved are they in the safety program?
- Are they notified when incidents occur or liabilities arise?
- How well would the organization navigate an unannounced inspection if a regulator showed up tomorrow?
- Would employees know what to do and where to find critical documentation and information?
- Is this true for each type of regulatory inspection?
If these or similar questions raise any doubts, the program would likely benefit from a more proactive approach.
Achieving the Gold Standard
The best safety programs consider these questions and develop written policies to address them. They also conduct periodic safety drills or “challenges” to put policies and procedures into practice. As a result, these programs are able to identify any gaps and deficiencies before emergency situations arise.
Emergencies require immediate action. Employees can’t afford to hesitate in an emergency situation, and while it’s cliché, practice really does make perfect. The best way to prevent indecision is by making sure employees have navigated the scenario before. Practicing the procedures in low pressure situations will improve response time and confidence in the event of a true emergency.
Making Time for Safety
Time is the most cited reason against implementing safety drills and workshops. The good news is that effective drills can take as little as 15-20 minutes and can serve as valuable team building exercises as well.
The best programs appreciate the value of investing in safety. When compared to the potential downtime, productivity loss, and financial consequence that could result from a single incident, it can be one of the best investments an organization can make.
Making Safety Routine
A proactive safety culture requires constant vigilance from all members of the organization. When safety is established as a shared responsibility of all employees, it solidifies the culture and promotes increased awareness.
Keeping Things Fresh
There are a number of ways to keep safety fresh and interesting. Consider the following strategies for improving safety culture:
- Conduct refresher training in shorter chunks. Long training sessions tend to be unpopular (and unproductive), so consider shorter refresher training sessions spaced throughout the year. Research shows that information retention declines after the first 15 minutes of a learning session, so shorter sessions are often more productive and more palatable.
- Incorporate safety discussions into standard group meetings. Dedicating 5-10 minutes to the safety program at regularly scheduled meetings promotes a proactive culture that evolves in real time, rather than on an annual cycle. You may even be surprised by the willingness of employees to share observations and offer solutions once they’ve been given a dedicated forum to discuss safety.
- Schedule a safety awareness week. OSHA’s Safe + Sound Week is scheduled for August 12-18 in 2019. Organizations have had great success improving their safety cultures through safety-related games, challenges, trivia, and more. Making safety a team effort and a priority throughout the organization can go a long way toward promoting a more proactive culture.
If you would like to discuss ways to promote and measure safety culture at your organization, feel free to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org or spotlightsafetyinc.com to schedule a free consultation and information session.
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