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Effective Safety Planning Part 1: Establishing a Culture of Safety

Posted on 17 September 2015 by cradmin

No fabricator I know desires to put his or her employees at risk, but at the same time, many do not take all of the precautions recommended by workplace safety organizations, such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). The two major reasons for this are misunderstanding accepted safety protocols and cost. However, it is possible for fabricators to minimize risk in the workplace without digging into profit, and it all begins with establishing a written safety plan.

Avoiding Losses Through Safety Planning

When workers are injured on the job, the expenses for which employers are liable are very steep. In fact, occupational injuries cost U.S. employers about $170 billion in expenses and lost profits each year.

When your shop operates according to a sound safety plan, minimizing the impact on worker health and well-being, you can expect to experience several benefits, including all of the following:

  • Low premiums for workers’ compensation insurance
  • Decrease in direct medical expenses
  • Reduced overtime expenditures

When your employees are happy, healthy and safe, they are more apt to be on your side in all business endeavors. This indirectly benefits your company in a number of ways:

  • Higher quality products and services
  • Increase in productivity
  • Improved morale
  • Improved worker-management relations
  • Reduced turnover

The Purpose of a Safety Plan

While safety plans are great for spelling out company policy and letting everyone know about specific operating procedures in a variety of situations, the true purpose of a written and practiced plan is to help develop a culture of safety. Government agencies and private researchers have found that a company’s safety culture is the highest determining factor in the number of health and safety incidents experienced during working hours. Because of this, development of a strong safety culture in the workplace is vital in protecting employees and revenue at the smallest possible cost.

What Is Safety Culture?

Safety culture is a shared atmosphere in a workplace consisting of beliefs, attitudes and procedures that can shape the behavior of everyone in a company. Safety culture ranges from poor to strong, and it is created and nurtured by many of the following:

  • Standard operating procedures
  • Attitudes of management and employees
  • Moral values
  • Workplace myths and stories
  • Priorities of management
  • Personal and company accountability
  • Employee motivation and involvement
  • Job and safety training

In companies with a strong safety culture, everyone feels responsible for their own safety and the safety of others, and they deliberately practice all safety measures on a daily basis. In addition, employees in a strong safety culture will easily identify safety hazards, communicating their existence to supervisors. Supervisors, in turn, take all of the necessary steps to eliminate hazards promptly as they are identified.

Establishing and Improving Safety Culture

In most companies, strong safety culture begins with a strong and inclusive organizational culture, but improving safety culture also has the additional benefit of strengthening organizational culture because the process brings everyone together to meet a shared goal. Creating a strong culture of safety is not at all difficult because it directly benefits everyone, from the owner to new trainees, and no one is more aware of this than your frontline workers, which makes employee buy-in a simple matter.

Employees are more apt to jump aboard implementing safety procedures than they are to get behind initiatives focused on improving product quality, increasing productivity or expanding profit margins. However, building a strong safety culture indirectly improves quality, productivity and profit.

Getting employees to buy into safety improvements is simple when compared to top management buy-in. Many managers and supervisors resist under the idea that it will create more work and hurt productivity. However, it is essential to have all top managers aboard before safety culture can be improved. This may require one or more meetings in which planning is discussed and costs analyzed. In most cases, upper management can be swayed by educating them as to the bottom-line costs of safety incidents.

Tips for Building Safety Culture

  • Continue working on buy-in at all levels in the company. The goal is to create a community that fosters open communication and willing acceptance. Try to spell out the exact reasons for building a safety culture and how it will improve the business for everyone involved.
  • Build trust. Both workers and managers need to trust in the bigger picture and trust each other to make the workplace safe.
  • Perform a self-audit. An initial self-assessment will provide you with a benchmark that lets you estimate just what needs to be done to develop a comprehensive safety plan.
  • Form a committee. The most efficient and effective way to develop and implement a safety plan is by forming a focused safety committee.
  • Create vision and mission statements. These will guide every effort in establishing a strong safety culture.
  • Begin training. Key personnel should be given opportunities for general safety and health training.
  • Assign responsibility and hold people accountable. Specific roles in creating and maintaining a safe workplace should be clearly defined, and the people assuming those roles should be held accountable for following through with their duties.
  • Develop a system for receiving and discussing feedback at all levels in the business, and give recognition where it is due.

Next month we continue on the theme of Effective Safety Planning with Part 2: Establishing a Four-Point Plan.

Find more articles on safety in the countertop shop here.

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