By Samuel Sanguedolce, MS, CIH, CSP
Safety culture is a term that was first introduced by safety experts investigating the Chernobyl nuclear accident. It was concluded that a poor safety culture was a contributing factor to the disaster. Evidence of this failed safety culture was apparent in basic faults in organizational structure, climate, and safety procedures.
Today, the term safety culture is used to describe the degree to which an organization has embraced safety as one of its core values. A company with a strong safety culture is one that recognizes the importance of safety and provides a work environment where management and employees both are dedicated to maintaining a safe work environment.
A core value
Safety can be one of many components that comprise the company’s overall culture. Incorporating safety, along with other company values such as quality and productivity, will help to create a positive safety culture throughout the organization.
The accepted philosophy is that in order for a safety program to be effective, regardless of the specific industry or occupation, it needs the support of senior leaders on down. In order to establish a strong and efficient safety culture, management must “walk the walk” and safety must traverse all lines of the organization, from senior executives to field workers conducting subsurface investigations. When management makes safety a priority it sends a strong message to its employees. It signifies that safety (and thus the well-being of the organization’s employees) is a fundamental value of the company.
One way a company can communicate to its employees that safety is a primary business value is to put it in writing. If an organization routinely publishes a company newsletter or similar publication, it can be used to state or reinforce that safety is important. In the newsletter, the organization’s leaders may want to recognize exceptional safety behavior, mention a successful safety program, or recognize an employee who reported an unsafe condition that may have prevented an injury to a fellow employee.
The nuts and bolts
Here are some basic ways an organization can incorporate safety into their existing culture:
Developing a safety culture and measuring the benefits
Incentive versus recognition
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Commitment is key to keeping your workplace safer