It starts out with the best of intentions: a new year and a renewed focus on creating a culture of safety. The goal is to build awareness around maintaining a safe work environment and preventing workplace accidents. You kicked off the program with a launch party. There seemed to be a lot of buzz ̶ though maybe that was more about the pizza and the talk of gift cards for reaching your goals. But then what? All too often workplace safety programs die on the vine.
There’s a big difference between building a culture of safety awareness and launching a safety program. When safety is an accepted part of the culture, it becomes part of why people do what they do. Whereas a program is focused more on what people do. To be most effective, you need both. Culture change takes time and is harder to measure. Building a program that is tied to measurable objectives may seem more doable.
As a safety professional, it’s your job to prevent and eliminate injury and illness and reinforce compliance. You know your industry and your environment. When developing your safety program, the easy part is identifying which safety issues you need to enforce. You have the data to determine which KPIs will drive success.
The hard part is creating a sustainable program that drives employee engagement and keeps safety top of mind across the whole organization. Communication is the essential element for program success. And yet, given the daily challenges that occupational health and safety professionals face, it’s no wonder that communication takes a back seat. Consider these tips for improving your workplace safety program.
5 Tips for Creating a Sustainable Safety Program
1. Look to leadership. It starts with a commitment from leadership. Where does safety fit into the company strategy and culture? Look to your leadership for guidance on strategic goals that are impacted by safety. Whether it’s a town hall meeting or a CEO address, your workers need to know that safety performance is top of mind to your executives.
2. Get the word out. You have more options than ever for getting workers’ attention. Don’t limit yourself to safety posters and signs. Electronic message boards, company intranets, newsletters and social apps like Yammer and Slack can help to educate, reinforce and recognize your efforts.
3. Keep it visual. Leverage the power of visual communication with workplace digital signage. Use the screens to announce and promote your safety program, reinforcing your goals. Post safety videos, auto-counters for safety recordables, health and wellness tips, pictures of employees “caught in the act” of being safe, quizzes that reinforce safety tips and more.
4. Reach out. It’s okay to ask for help. You know your stuff when it comes to safety, but maybe you could really use some help with communication. Find out who runs your electronic message boards and ask to contribute safety content each month. Who writes the newsletter? Let them know you want to showcase this month’s safety winners. Do you have quarterly town hall meetings? Find out how safety (and the status of your program’s success) can be on the agenda. Enlist employees to capture pictures or videos of “safety don’ts. Post them on digital signage to reinforce awareness.
5. Celebrate Success. Make sure everyone knows what success looks like for your workplace safety program. Throughout the year, you may be focusing on different goals. Whether it’s hazard spotting, safe driving records or emergency preparedness, employees need to understand how performance will be measured. Be clear about the rules of the game and build a reward component into your program. Celebrate success for individuals, departments or shifts. Capture the moment in pictures and videos. Gift cards are a universal way to say thank you. And, of course, there’s always pizza.