The difference between safety success and safety failure often hinges on a single issue—management support. Safety attitudes tend to start at the managerial level and then trickle down to supervisors and the rest of the workforce.
Employees know if upper managers are committed to safety and take safety leadership seriously, and if they’re not then even the most dedicated and talented EHS professionals may struggle to get employee buy-in.
Almost every company says they’re committed to safety, but there are a few ways to tell whether they’re actually fully invested in an effective, sustainable safety culture. Here are four key signs that management is dedicated to safety.
1. Managers have a working knowledge of their site’s safety requirements. This means that they know what the company’s basic safety obligations are and can recognize any situation where protocols are not being met. They’re also on board with plans to address issues with compliance.
In addition, committed managers are aware of what safety initiatives are being implemented and understand their purpose. They contribute to their development and implementation, and they follow all the safety procedures themselves. They also regularly consider the workplace safety needs and share their ideas for new initiatives.
2. Company leaders make it a priority to have conversations about safety regularly, not just when an issue arises. Some may introduce daily toolbox talks (or safety talks) with the aim of briefing the workforce, allowing for discussion and raising alertness. Others focus on employee participation in growing the safety culture by creating an encouraging work environment where employees can feel comfortable speaking up about their concerns.
Furthermore, meetings regarding safety are conducted regularly among managers so any new or unresolved issues can be brought up and addressed promptly. Management taking active interest shows their commitment to safety and also lends moral support to safety officers. Strong leaders know that safety is not a one-person job—it’s everyone’s responsibility and they do their part.
3. Management invests both time and money in safety. This includes regular staff training (irrespective of turnover) and replacing old PPE and other safety equipment to ensure that the tools they provide their workers with are the safest possible.
Investing in safety also means sending safety managers to conferences, workshops and tradeshows to keep in the loop about what the company and the management can do better. When approached the right way, these events can help shape an organization’s long-term plans by taking into account the most recent changes and developments in the industry.
4. Committed managers support initiatives that go beyond regulatory compliance to protect people 24/7. This means focusing on the worker’s agenda instead of the corporate agenda, which usually means addressing human error. And when they do, they take the time to find the right program and implement it correctly, always remembering that the aim of human error reduction training is to help workers improve their own awareness without assigning blame. They also encourage near-miss reporting to look for solutions rather than punish the people involved.
Such non-punitive, awareness-building programs help employees develop better habits and take on a more preventative approach. They can also give workers the skills to mitigate the effects of rushing, frustration, fatigue and complacency in any situation, whether at work, at home or on the road.