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The use of branding to communicate an organization’s values to its customers and potential job candidates has become an important marketing tool, one that seems here to stay.

Yet, when we think of the many benefits that result from efforts to ensure a safe workplace, chances are that their ability to add value to an organization’s brand isn’t the first thing that springs to mind.

In a business climate in which having a recognizable brand on website and social media platforms has taken a strong hold, present employees are perhaps the foremost ambassadors of an organization’s brand with respect to safety culture.

In the previous installments of this series (Safety Culture, Safety is a Team Win), we discussed the importance of employee perceptions of a safety culture at work and how this can benefit everyone in the organization. The value of cultivating a team mentality in which everyone is enthused about the work the organization is doing and their role in it cannot be overstated.

Employees with a positive perception of safety culture not only deliver high quality products and services, their attentiveness to safety can manifest itself in fewer accidents and injuries. And team members showing their enthusiasm and support on social media both formally and informally can go a long way to sharing an organization’s safety message.

It’s also important to consider the potential impact apparent lapses in safety (or employees’ perceptions of them) can have when posted to social media and job boards.

A fundamental part of establishing and keeping a brand identity is by ensuring a sense of consistency of communications.

For instance, it may be possible to share a corporate mission with a core audience through various media, but the messages should be aligned to reflect a consistent personality, or voice.

Online media can be an effective tool for engaging readers and have them coming back for more. Those messages can include a mix of everything from testimonials to tips and hints. Just remember what has become a touchstone of social media: Always be of service. A typical recommendation is for education to outweigh self-promotion by a ratio of at least 3 to 1.

It’s important to view such communications as an ongoing conversation rather than as something to be set on auto-pilot and adjusted occasionally. The watchword here is “integrity.” Numerous studies, not to mention conventional wisdom, suggest that organizations that hold to their own values are likely to attract – and keep – like-minded employees.

Tagged in: safety culture

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In this second installment in a three part series on safety culture in the workplace, we look at the concept of encouraging safe behaviors through employee engagement. Read Part One - Safety Culture: Who Is Getting Your Safety Message 

Safety is a Team Win

What message is your organization sending to employees about its commitment to safety?

Let’s begin with the familiar “days without an injury” statistic. The numbers speak for themselves. They may even be posted in the form of a sign for everyone at work to see. But they only tell part of the story.

We know workplace safety education and training programs positively affect employee safety. Yet, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2014 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, more than 13 people in the United States died each day as result of performing their jobs. The National Safety Council goes a step further by claiming that each of those deaths was preventable. So where do things go off track?

All the safety measures in the world are of little benefit if they are not followed. Motivating employees to use the safety protocols they've learned is therefore essential. That’s where engagement comes in. A standard dictionary definition of “engagement” is “an emotional involvement or commitment.”

The “Four Pillars of Safety,” a white paper from the Performance Improvement Council, offers a number of suggestions for recognizing employee contributions to safety and doing so in engaging ways. (“Engagement,” incidentally, is one of those four pillars, along with” recognition,” “communications” and “measurement.”)

One of those is to offer employee wellness programs. These can be as simple as encouraging employees to improve their health together and offering incentives and rewards for top achievers. Such programs have been a feature of the corporate landscape for over a decade, and according to a recent State of the Industry Survey conducted by Virgin Pulse, they are among the top priorities for responding employers in 2017. That survey, which gathered data from 600 human resources and benefits officers at global organizations, also found that those companies that invest in wellness and engagement can realize measurable improvements in business performance. Seventy-eight percent of respondents indicated employee well-being is a critical part of their business plans, while 74 percent of those with comprehensive wellness programs said their employee satisfaction has increased.

According to the NSC, employers who demonstrate that they care about the safety of their employees can see fewer injuries along with better morale, increased productivity and lower costs.

Now, back to the “days without an injury” sign. While signs and placards are good visual reminders, they tend to be passive, impersonal and monolithic. Most people tend to appreciate at least occasional face-to-face feedback and "tangible" rewards. According to the Performance Improvement Council, surveys that seek to determine why employees left a job consistently find "lack of recognition" and "compensation” as the top two reasons. Recognizing achievements and safe behaviors as they happen or soon after tells employees they are appreciated for being safe and for ensuring they keep a safe work environment.

And when all employees take ownership of their roles in safety at work, it becomes, as it should be, a team effort. Go team!

References:
1. Every Worker Deserves to Make it Home Safe from Work—Every Day, http://www.nsc.org/learn/pages/safety-at-work.aspx?var=mnd
2. Performance Improvement Council, “The Four Pillars of Safety,” white paper March 2014, http://c.ymcdn.com/sites/www.incentivemarketing.org/resource/resmgr/Docs/Pillar-of-Safety_Mar2014_wMb.pdf?hhSearchTerms=%22Four+and+Pillars+and+Safety+and+-+and+Performance+and+Improveme%22
3. State of the Industry Survey Report 2017, http://community.virginpulse.com/state-of-the-industry-2017-wc

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In this 3-part series, we’ll look at the concept of safety culture in the workplace and how your organization can leverage its commitment to safety to attract and keep talent in a competitive market.

Who is Getting Your Safety Message?

Safety is a fundamental part of every culture and has been from at least the dawn of recorded history. It is no great stretch to posit that our continued existence as a species owes at least something to our ancestors’ knowledge on what to do and what to avoid in order to live a long life and to have been able transmit that information from generation to generation.

It’s only been in the past few decades, however, that the term “safety culture” has entered into the lexicon. According to OSHA, “Safety cultures consist of shared beliefs, practices, and attitudes that exist at an establishment. Culture is the atmosphere created by those beliefs, attitudes, etc., which shape our behavior.”

So far so good. Based on that definition, it’s clear that every organization has a safety culture. We know that cultivating a culture of safety is an ongoing, organic process, and not one that can always be readily quantified. After all, while we could spot check people’s knowledge of a particular process or job routine, how do we accurately measure their attitudes, beliefs and values with respect to safety?

Perhaps the better question to ask: Is our safety culture as effective as it could be?

A robust safety culture might be easier to define by considering clear-cut examples of what it isn’t.

When a safety practice is successful, such as when the selection of the proper personal protective equipment for a specific task is accompanied by training an employee on its proper use, the benefit is typically identified and appreciated within the organization. But it might not necessarily become known to the “outside world.”

Conversely, asking an employee to perform a task with inadequate safety equipment would likely be viewed by anyone inside or outside that organization as a reflection of a poor safety culture. And since a cultural universal is that bad news travels fast, we can all read about apparent lapses in safety on the job daily in the news media, opinions posted on social media and job boards from employees (and former employees), and even on OSHA’s official website.

What messages is your organization sending about its safety culture?

Tagged in: OSHA safety culture

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