Building A Safety Culture
Since June is Safety month, we want to raise awareness and provide a few ideas on how to move Safety from a negative reporting issue to a unifying team value.
The Cost of Poor Safety
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the NASI, and Liberty Mutual’s annual workplace safety index, there were 317 million accidents at work in 2021, costing $58 billion. Every 15 seconds someone died from a work related accident or disease, and 153 workers had a work related accident. Yikes!
The 2021 top 10 non-fatal disabling injuries (where employees missed over 5 days of work) were caused by:
Handling objects (e.g., heavy boxes) - $13.3B
Falls on the same level (watch for wet floors) - $10.58B
Falls to lower level (like wobbly ladders) - $6.26B
Being hit by objects (think falling objects) - $5.61B
Awkward postures (like stepping down from a vehicle) - $4.71B
Vehicle crashes (and distracted drivers) - $3.16B
Slip or trip without a fall (watch for slippery or uneven walkways) - $2.52B
Colliding with objects or equipment (including fixed objects) - $2.46B
Caught in equipment or machines - $2.01B
Repetitive motions and microtasks - $1.66B
And that’s just reportable incidents. Direct costs include workers company payments, medical expenses, lost time/absenteeism/lost productivity, legal services, and fines/work stoppage. But there are indirect costs too: Injury investigation, increased insurance, business disruption, replacing employees, reduced employee morale, and impact on company image/reputation.
How Does Safety Affect Me?
Maybe you’re in a small business or not manufacturing. Did you notice that causes 1-8 can happen anywhere? It’s not about the size of company, or even what you do. This isn’t just about safety guards, or expensive new machinery or systems. The way you and your organization (from CEO to production and janitorial) think about safety influences your performance. Is safety a core value? Or is it a passing priority, that will be replaced by new hot priorities?
Do you track only reportable incidents, or do you also track and communicate property accidents, near misses and at-risk behaviors?
Better yet, do you have an easy method and encourage all employees to provide input on opportunities for improvement, and then report and celebrate great saves?
Do you have defined processes for potentially risky activities?
How do you share the learning from adverse events?
Is support available when staff are overworked or stressed?
Changing Culture means focusing on great saves, not just reducing reportable incidents.
This is done by shifting from Lagging indicators (like reportable incidents and injuries) to Leading indicators that monitor behavior and leadership. How? By analyzing unsafe acts, unsafe conditions, process findings, and hazard assessments to uncover and implement best practice for your industry. An engaged staff, focused on safety, leads to reduced incidents. Visible unwavering leadership engagement with investigations, safety performance reviews, recognition, and reinforcing shared values is critical. So is employee participation in identifying risks and finding and implementing safe solutions. ISO 45001 the OHS management standard is directly tied to ISO 9001’s section 7.1.4 section on work environment and psychosocial hazards (see ISO 45003 for more ideas).
Consider city government for Commerce City CO. They have diverse jobs and hazards from law enforcement to landscaping. In 2016 they had more than 80 Workers Compensation claims, but management has turned it around by focusing on education, accountability, and transparency. To get employee buy-in they started with monthly safety puzzles that earned points that translated into cash. Their insurance provider attended city safety meetings to answer questions, share data, and provide resources. Their new safety team is comprised of employees from all departments who meet monthly, and due to the new culture, they celebrate wins every meeting. Money saved in premiums was invested in the departments that showed improved safety. The results? 54% decrease in premiums and 60% decrease in injury severity. There’s always room for improvement, but a culture of safety is a GREAT place to start.