By: Hillary Redd

December 5, 2019

Looking to the Future: Safety Culture & ISO 45001

Safety Culture is integral to a healthy and safe workplace. Change your culture by including employees as a part of your Safety Strategy.

Knowledgeable safety professionals know that effective safety programs depend on a positive safety culture. Creating and maintaining such a culture is what engineers call a “non-trivial exercise”. The rest of us call it “hard”. So how do we make it easier?

Engage Every Employee

Employees support proposals and programs that they help to create. This is true for any process, and is a big part of the idea behind, and importance of, employee engagement.  It is very difficult to walk away from a program that was your idea in the first place.

Employees will also refuse to support processes that don’t appear to have visible support by their managers and peers. “Do as I say, not as I do” didn’t really work very well when our parents said it – it most assuredly will not work in today’s workplaces. We all respond to the behavioral examples set by those around and above us, so leadership commitment is critically important to cultural direction.

What Really Defines Safety Culture?

Many companies recognize that safety systems should be a key component of their organization’s risk management strategy. That means that safety culture is in fact company culture, which must be defined, communicated and demonstrated at all levels of the company. Everyone from the C-suite to HR to professionals to the floor should have the same core vision, values and beliefs when it comes to maintaining a safe workplace.

Efforts to change safety culture in workplaces around the globe are in line with ISO 45001 which requires involvement from leadership and all workers. Under ISO 45001, responsibility for safety is not tasked to a specific person such as a safety director. The standard does not specify performance criteria or mandate a specific system design. ISO 45001 requires organizations to assess risks beforehand, rather than working backward after an injury has already occurred. In other words, ISO 45001 is mandating that organizations be forward thinking in their safety programs to provide the foundation for a strong and healthy safety culture.

A good starting place for strengthening your cultural foundation is by clearly defining your organization’s purpose, strategy and goals.  Do all of your employees understand the company strategic direction? Do they understand their own roles in that vision? And can they see clearly the role that safety plays in the plan? Were they given an opportunity to provide input in any part of the plan? This doesn’t require inviting everyone on the payroll into the President’s office to discuss top-line revenue goals, but your employees do have strong knowledge of their own operating areas, and often have good ideas for improvement. Ensuring that your own systems support collecting, and responding to, those ideas is a great way to support engagement.

Safety Culture Is No Longer A Buzzword

Safety culture should no longer be a buzzword but rather spark a positive outlook on safety within organizations globally. There is a lot of evidence supporting the importance of engagement to support a positive culture. If you are not so sure about that, just ask yourself one question: Would I rather work FOR someone or WITH someone.

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