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What Does it Take to Create a World-Class Safety Culture?

“Safety cultures consist of shared beliefs, practices, and attitudes that exist at an establishment”, OSHA says. “Culture is the atmosphere created by those beliefs, attitudes, which shape our behavior.”

Some of the world’s safest companies – as recognized by reputable institutions – have managed to create organizational cultures with a strong commitment to worker safety. How do they do it? How do they successfully inspire, educate and lead with safety in mind?

In our 50 years of experience working with businesses from across a broad spectrum of industries and applications, we’ve identified six common traits of successful safety-driven organizations.

And here’s what we’ve found.

1.       Safety is the first item on the agenda

In a strong safety culture, safety is embedded in management priorities. It’s woven in the fabric of daily activities that need to be constantly measured and reviewed, to make sure they’re performing as expected.

Leading companies have also understood that changing the way safety is measured will compound the success of their safety program.

For example, incident rates, injury and incident costs (known as lagging indicators) are no longer sufficient to determine the performance of a safety program. Leading indicators, reflected through safety audits, employee perception surveys and safety trainings, are increasingly taken into consideration.

By analyzing current safety conditions and behaviors, these organizations can positively and proactively influence the outcome of safety projects. The more proactive our efforts, the less pressure on our reactive responses, right?

2.       Management spends time where people are

In successful safety cultures, leadership and employees share the same vision of safety. Furthermore, management shows strong commitment towards safety through their actions. The C-level suite sets the right example, rolling up their sleeves to do the work, if needed. By participating in the on-site HSE audit themselves, managers make accurate decisions based on hands-on knowledge.

3.       Accountability and commitment at all levels

In a true culture of safety, everyone feels equally and individually accountable for safety. Everyone understands their role in safety within the organization and how safety benefits them. And their goals are tightly aligned to the safety goals of the organization.

In companies with extraordinary safety records, management holds people accountable for creating and maintaining a safe workforce, regardless of their role.

And the benefits are obvious.

Companies with high-accountability leadership are five times more productive and more efficient, according to an EHS study.

4.       Employees are actively engaged in health and safety initiatives

Exceptional safety happens when people go beyond the call of duty - to report hazards, give feedback on unsafe behavior, make recommendations for improvement and simply engage. And companies showcase support by creating incentives and ceremonies that reward good behaviors and motivate continued health and safety performance.

This happens when the principles governing safety programs become so engrained in every day work activities, they become core values that everyone adheres to.

This attitude is also reflected by the C-level decision to go beyond compliance and regulatory-required training.  Multiple training programs, each designed to address a different risk, help workers continuously improve on all aspects of health, safety and environment.

We also believe training is key to staying safe. The Honeywell Safety Institute was designed to provide onsite programs, online resources and certified training taught by certified, knowledgeable industry experts. Because when you educate workers for safety, they make safer choices on their own.

5.       Employees feel empowered

When workers enthusiastically embrace safety standards and engage in safety-conscious behavior, they can regulate their own safety much more effectively and consistently.

This starts with access to documentation, training and tools that establish safe work practices. Regular, facility-wide communication on safety issues should be in place and within reach, either through internal networks, or via e-mail notifications of incidents or other means.

6.       Forward-looking safety leadership

Speaking from experience, we’ve noticed that strong safety cultures are led by innovative safety leaders who enthusiastically look for new solutions to existing safety challenges. Be it a technology-powered protection device or a new approach to reporting safety incidents, continuing to improve systems and performance is an integral part of the operational strategy of a successful company.

Safety sounds hard, right?

Building the foundation of a culture of safety is a hard job. No company is perfect, but starting with a good, proactive safety-first attitude will help you get the ball rolling and follow-through on this ambitious endeavor.

We’re here to help you build a world-class culture of safety.