Every employer realizes how important work zone safety is — a single accident can harm the company’s reputation and destroy morale, not to mention prove financially costly.
Enforcing safety in the workplace isn’t simply about putting out a handbook and offering perfunctory training in safety to keep up with the requirements of the law and to minimize personal injury lawsuits. It is about making genuine changes.
Work out whether safety is just a priority or a core value
The core values of a company come first. It is these values that determine what kind of priorities the company works out over time. Priorities tend to be narrower and more shortsighted than values. If your company only sets safety as a priority, your employees will be guided by specific rules, rather than be encouraged to think for themselves. If the rules that your company sets aren’t extremely detailed, you could have a serious problem — no one will really know what to do. When you make safety a core value, though, you help people form new ideas on their own about how to be safe as they go.
The hiring practices at businesses make for a good example. While most businesses do claim to prioritize safety, they tend to have no qualms about hiring untrained temporary workers when they need to respond to a bump in demand. If a supervisor or worker realized that the practice went against the company’s professed priorities in safety, he would have a hard time communicating it to anyone with the authority to do something about it.
In a business where safety is a core value, many from the line supervisor to the HR manager would concurrently and independently realize that untrained workers presented a safety hazard, and would therefore have an easier time addressing the issue. No one would need to look at a rule book — everyone would know that placing safety over productivity or savings at every level was important.
Pay attention to organizational accountability
When an accident occurs at a company, it’s easy to blame the supervisor or worker directly responsible for the area or process involved. While their role should be examined, it’s important also to pay close attention to whether there was systemic breakdown involved, or if the organization made it harder for them to enforce safety.
For instance, if the company expects a supervisor to enforce safety, but doesn’t plan for training for employees or safety audits for internal systems or enforcement authority for the supervisor, his job becomes impossible. When reviewing safety, it’s important to pay attention to both the way the organization is built, and to individual workers.
Pick your workers’ brains
While engaging safety experts to audit your processes can certainly deliver a certain amount of improvement to the safety levels at the workplace, the auditor’s recommendations may overlook a great deal. For truly meaningful improvement, you need to tap your workers and managers for what they can offer you. Your workers have been at the job for months or years, and likely have wonderfully detailed information on specific areas of risk. If you’re willing to milk them for their knowledge, you’ll have a checklist and even a training manual that can inform your workers and keep them safe forever.