The number one priority of businesses today should be safety and in the safest companies in the world, this is espoused as a key value. Safety performance affects productivity, insurance, competition for work and social standing. In this post, we take a look at what the safest companies in the world do to achieve their goals around workplace environmental health and safety (EHS) to develop a culture of safety first.
Safety Begins at the Top
The safest companies globally have a safety culture that starts at the very top and integrates through the organisation. The following are the key characteristics of safety-focused organisations:
- Receive support from leadership and management for their EHS efforts;
- Employees across levels are involved in the EHS process;
- Innovative solutions to safety challenges are adopted (in terms of design, process, and practice);
- Injury and illness rates are lower than their industry average;
- Conduct comprehensive training programmes (eLearning, interactivity, and engagement using adult learning principles);
- Hold evidence that prevention of incidents is the cornerstone of the safety process; and
- Provide quality and adequate communication about the value of safety; and a way to substantiate the benefits of the safety process.
In these companies, employee engagement and safety leadership are on display. Safety is not a siloed effort; instead, it is leveraged as a competitive advantage.
See our article, What is Your Preferred Safety Leadership Style?
Leadership plays a critical role to achieve the best safety performance and is fundamental in ensuring a culture that supports safety improvement to continually maintain the safest behaviours. In the safest companies in the world:
- Safety is a personal value. This holds even when there is a need to override the company position. Great safety leaders are forthright about their commitment to safety and lead by example.
- The safety message is demonstrated in everything that they do. Safety is not an add-on or a siloed process, it is the first order of business and influences all decisions.
- Safety leaders are on the shop floor. Safety managers, advisers, and supervisors are present in the field on a regular basis. They support safety systems and procedures by following the safety guidelines and modelling desired behaviours to lead by example.
- Safety is instilled into the climate and culture of the organisation. The message that people are the most important and keeping them safe is the organisation’s top priority.
- Safety leaders expect others to match their same level of focus and action. They ask questions to drive safety improvement.
- Safety leaders ensure that they have enough resources. They articulate a vision that specifies desired behaviours for employees at every level and defines actionable and manageable steps for getting there. With each step, they ensure they have the people, financing, and resources needed to succeed.
- Safety leaders coach and mentor employees. Continual training is provided to keep the safety message alive. They provide resources and assistance and collaborate to achieve their safety improvement goals while listening to changes and challenges to workflows that impact safety performance.
- Feedback is sought and welcomed. Feedback is an important tool for safety improvement because perception and interpretation of the message can vary.
- Proactive exposure reduction. Exposure is the best indicator of safety performance. When exposure changes, the action is immediate to eliminate the risk in real time.
- Alignment between their company and contractor leadership. They treat contractors like every other employee. They do not permit shortcuts to be taken because they are contractors or treat their lives as second to company employees.
- Know the direction the company is headed. They take action on safety issues and demonstrate a sense of urgency for safety, ensuring alignment with the future vision of the company and the processes they’re engaged in.
- Not afraid of innovation. They are keen to try something different and not afraid to accept failure and will start over if something is not working.
See our course, Leadership Skills.
Safety Culture Characteristics
The organisation’s culture is key to creating the conditions and behaviours that produce your results. To create a strong safety culture and to be one of the safest companies in the world, leadership must ensure the following four characteristics exist in their organisation:
- Workers are empowered and expected to stop and question if they have concerns about safety. Everyone in the organisation is charged with the responsibility to take action and actively participate in event-prevention and process improvement efforts.
- Workers are trained about the risks inherent in the work that they do. Repetition, over-confidence, and complacency can set in. Discussions about adverse events or near misses that have happened inside or outside of the organisation create an open environment.
- Learning and continuous improvement are core values. In an organisation with a strong safety culture, errors and negative events are considered valuable insights into vulnerabilities that exist and are key learning opportunities. A continuous feedback loop is needed to take the lessons learned and feed them into process improvement activities.
- Teamwork is a requirement to work in this organisation. Good teamwork increases production. A lack of teamwork leads to poor communication and safety risks. Leadership can reduce these risks by reinforcing that the organisation is one team that must work together and help each other to be safe and successful.
See our article, What is the Safety Culture Maturity of Your Industry?
Innovative Safety Training
The safest companies in the world provide a safe system of work and train their people how to work safely within that environment. They train specifically about workplace hazards and continue to monitor competency and knowledge about the best way to control workplace hazards as part of the rules for workplace safety. When managers rely on their own expertise to determine how best to control a hazard they run the risk of missing something of vital importance.
Training content should be underpinned by Regulations, Codes of Practice and Publications published by the Regulator to ensure the training content is informed by best practice and that it complies with the rules and regulations.
Research across a number of disciplines shows that engagement and interactivity are the keys to embedded knowledge and influence on work health and safety behaviour.
Tap into Safety offers interactive and engaging work health and safety training that is delivered via smart devices and online. We use real workplace photographic, panoramic examples together with microlearning, that workers can relate to because they show their worksites governed by the required rules and regulations for their industry. If you’d like to know more please click through and try a free online demo.