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Safe + Sound Week
Ralph Waldo Emerson famously said, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” The same could be said for safety. Workplace safety does not have a designated endpoint; rather, it is an ongoing journey—one in which new information is constantly being input, new technologies and innovations are constantly evolving, and employees are holding employers more accountable for ensuring a safe work environment.
Levels of Safety
How do you know where your organization falls on your safety journey? A recent webinar conducted by the Board of Certified Safety Professionals (BCSP) suggests organizations fall into one of four safety level that indicate the maturity of their safety program:
- Safety is not a major concern. Organizations on this level do not take an active role in the safety of their employees; instead, they are reactive to events that may occur. Their focus is generally on maximizing profits and minimizing costs. They are not future-looking, nor do they invest money in safety. This is typically the level where you see organizations with the most expensive fines and the most potential to cause serious damage to workers and/or their equipment.
- We do what is necessary to meet minimum safety requirements. This organization is still more concerned about costs over safety, so it is not significantly safer than an organization at the first level. That being said, the organization is at least meeting the bare minimum requirements, though blindly follows regulations just to avoid penalties. At this level, the organization will have only the required documentation and will not have a strong safety management system.
- We take a proactive approach to safety. The organization focuses on safety aspects that apply to their operations, is actively looking at other organizations in their industry for best practices, and utilizes leading indicators to drive safety improvements. These organizations understand that safety is an investment and, even more so, that the safety of their sites has direct impacts on their bottom line. These organizations go above the minimum requirements and show concern for the safety of their employees.
- Behavior-Based Safety (BBS) is in our blood. At the ultimate level, the organization understands how to help employees take an active role in their safety and actively encourages employees to exercise their rights to a safe work environment. In these organizations, employees are given positive reinforcement for actions taken to make the organization safer and are encouraged by management to watch out for each other rather than leaving the burden solely on the safety professional. There is an increase in morale, as safety is an integral part of the organization’s culture.
Moving Along Your Journey
Understanding where your organization is on its safety journey is the first step in creating a culture that embraces safety. This starts with assessing your safety programs, procedures, and policies; reviewing your safety metrics; and even surveying your staff to understand their attitudes about workplace safety.
As organizations move along in this journey, it is important to remember that a solid safety culture does not happen overnight. It takes ongoing work to build a robust and mature safety program where all employees contribute to a strong safety culture. And it takes ongoing work to maintain this culture, but the benefits are worth it:
- Fewer accidents, losses, and disruptions by preventing workplace injuries and illnesses
- Engaged employees and improved morale
- Increased productivity and enhanced overall business operations
- Lower workers’ compensation and insurance claims
- Improved compliance with OSHA regulations
- Improved reputation to attract new customers and employees and retain existing ones
- Better brand and shareholder value that tie to social responsibility
Where does your organization fall when it comes to safety? Where do you want it to be? And how can you get there?