Organizational leaders tend to fixate on injury totals to highlight safety success. This is because injury totals provide a simple metric to easily track without spending time thinking about the health of an organization’s safety program. It encourages leaders to create a policy to prevent an injury after an injury has already happened. And this is flawed logic.
The purpose of an organization’s safety program goes beyond stopping any single injury. Because a safety program rooted in a strong safety culture reduces onsite injuries while creating an environment to prevent injuries before they happen. Leaders, supervisors, and decision-makers who want to nurture a sustainable safety program need to look beyond injuries as the sole arbiter of safety success. Focusing on the larger safety culture within a workplace will drive a sustainable safety program where reactive safety policies will fall short.
A Safety Policy is a Response, Not a Solution
Safety policies come from a well-intentioned place. They are established to try to stop a hazardous work method or avoid undue risk. But policies are generally a reaction to an incident that has already taken place. Which means the organization has already shouldered the brunt of the incident the policy is trying to address — in lost time, lost equipment, lost production, and lost morale.
A culture of safety prevents an incident before it happens. Because the guidance from safety education and the direction of safety leaders encourages employees to identify and address potential safety hazards before starting a task. This allows employers to use their safety culture as a proactive tool to prevent potential injuries, loss of life, and costly production stops from occurring.
The Reach of a Policy vs Culture
A safety policy can prevent a specific incident from happening again. But it won’t change how an employee engages in risky work behavior in general. That is the difference with a culture of safety. A strong safety policy will change how an employee engages with a single portion of a specific task for themselves. A strong safety culture will influence how an employee accomplishes every task and considers the safety of the rest of their team.
The scope of any given policy is also limiting. Sustainability is accomplished through momentum. But a single safety policy is static. It’s structured to be followed in the moment and its effectiveness and influence stop there.
A safety culture is active and ever present. Because culture encompasses the entire organization from the top down and all methods of work throughout the business. This greater breadth allows employees to organically promote safety for continuous process and safety improvements throughout the workplace. And the drive from continuous safety improvements is the fuel for sustainable safety. It constantly works to keep employees engaged in safe work habits which cuts down injuries, reduces the potential for injuries overall, increases efficiency, boosts employee morale, and saves the company money.
Safety policies are best created from the direction of a safety culture rather than from a reaction to a safety incident. But a strong safety culture to help shape effective policies and procedures is foundational for sustainable safety in the workplace. Creating and supporting a culture of safety will mold safer, happier, more engaged employees that are more loyal to their employer. It will also establish organizations as preferred employers amongst their peers. Embrace a culture of safety to promote a sustainable safety program and become an industry leader in safety.
Optimum Safety Management provides the information and services to help companies develop safety leaders and improve overall safety performance. For more information on how Optimum Safety Management can assist with your businesses’ safety needs, contact an expert today, or reach out via phone at 630-759-9908.
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