Establishing a Safety First Culture
Culture can be defined as the values, beliefs, and behaviors that are shared and help define a group. The group culture provides cues on how to behave in typical situations and the confidence to ask for support when there is a question. In a safety-first work culture the expectation to work safely is clearly defined and the environment is more predictable. (Merritt, Helmreich, 1996) A safety-first corporate culture is the pre-cursor to job safety. When management is committed to the safety-first value it becomes integrated into every task and a shared value with employees.
Why Develop a Safety-First Culture
A safety-first corporate culture is important for a simple reason, competition. Globalization has intensified the nature of competition. As a result of increased competition, corporations must consistently operate at peak performance levels. In order to meet this demand the work environment must be safe. Organizations that do not operate safely become distracted by injuries and accidents, poor employee morale, penalties, increased medical costs, lawsuits, and negative public image. (Goetsch, 2011) This adversely affects the company’s productivity levels and ultimately leads to company failure.
The pressure of global competition leads some companies to cut corners and sacrifice safety in an effort to stay productive and competitive. In doing so the opposite occurs and the organization becomes unable to operate because of the costs associated with unsafe acts. (Goetsch, 2011) In order to remain competitive an organization must establish and practice the ideal safety culture. The ideal safety culture draws on the elements of: informed culture, reporting culture, learning culture, risk aware and planning culture, and just and caring culture. (Radici, 2011)
Core Characteristics of a Safety Culture
An informed culture is one that, at all levels, understands the approach to managing safety. This begins at orientation and continues through regular and specific safety education. (Radici, 2011) This is a point where management can reinforce the company’s safety-first culture. Through communication about the persona, technical, and environmental components of managing safety at the beginning of a project, the safety-first culture is immediately established.
A reporting culture is one that flows down from management as well as up from employees. Continual improvement is necessary for any company to succeed. Lessons learned that are communicated to employees and incorporated into safety policies and plans ensure continued improvement. To gain a complete understanding of the safety and health of the work environment employees must be encouraged, supported, and rewarded for reporting hazards, near misses, incidents, and errors. (Radici, 2011) Through this encouragement a complete picture of the company’s safety culture can be identified and improved measures presented to...