Changing Unsafe Attitudes for a Stronger Safety Culture
Overcoming organizational barriers to change requires 1) observation to identify your organization’s safety culture, and 2) action to improve it. So, how do you describe your organization’s safety culture?
It’s the collective safety attitude of every person in the organization. Attitudes inform human behavior and help people decide which choice to make in a given situation.
What Is Attitude, Anyway?
To put it simply, attitude is how you choose to respond, either positively or negatively, to the situations, people, ideas, or objects encountered in your daily life.
Everyone in an organization has an attitude about safety. It’s demonstrated by their talk and behavior. You need to know the safety attitudes of people from the workshop floor to the big corner office in order to determine your organization’s safety attitude and culture.
Does your CEO, or any other C-Suite boss, stop by and tour the floor, giving impromptu safety talks? Is your most junior employee, or the one doing the least significant job, working safely and doing their part to ensure the workplace is safe?
Look for these issues to determine if there’s a negative safety attitude in your organization:
- Lack of trust between individuals and organizational elements.
- Climate of fear and blame keeps employees from reporting issues.
- Not allowing employee involvement at all stages of safety.
- Leaders who don’t delegate.
When you’re trying to implement change, the results depend on how you frame things. The best way to change attitudes while implementing change is to frame information in terms that show the potential positive results of a new behavior. In other words, whenever you make a safety change, you need to clearly demonstrate its impact on a worker’s life.
Don’t believe that each person’s safety attitude is important? Watch this short video to learn how thinking about the safety of your co-workers, not just yourself, helps keep everyone safer:
How Roles Impact Safety Culture
A good safety management system requires everyone to play their own role and take responsibility for their part in creating a solid safety culture. Clearly defining roles and responsibilities makes this possible.
When you’re planning safety changes, involve individuals from all organizational levels in the planning process, as well as the execution. This helps to ensure buy-in and organization-wide approval.
For example, create a safety team with representatives from all departments and all levels of workers and management. With their help, you can search out safety issues that need correction. The solutions this team proposes will be more realistic and better received because you’ve asked for input from all stakeholders.
Does Training Help?
Making changes to your safety program, and ultimately your safety culture, always requires some amount of training. To be effective, start by training a team of experts, which will then help other workers in making necessary habit changes, adjusting work behaviors, and getting questions answered.
Train people so they understand their new responsibilities and fully understand what’s expected of them, each time you introduce new machinery or tools, or institute a new process, procedure, or safety practice. Train, and retrain, until you’re sure your workers have learned this new information and are performing correctly.
Make sure the training is clearly relevant to the duties of your workers’ jobs, otherwise it’s a waste of their time, and yours. If you invest time and money in training your workers to safely perform their jobs, they’ll see that you’re committed to their safety.
Organizational Structure and Operations
Creating and maintaining a strong safety culture requires teamwork throughout an organization, from the bottom to the top. Unfortunately, very few organizations are structured to support teams and teamwork.
That means you’ll have to go the extra mile to operate in a team-like manner within the existing organizational structure. This requires communication.
When you’re implementing safety changes, the organization also has to be flexible enough to allow each team to implement the change in a way that makes sense within their work process. There is no one-size-fits-all in the realm of safety.
While it may be simple to implement a small safety change, sweeping reform takes time and patience. Sharing a transition plan that maps out how you plan to get from “here” to “there” helps build trust among the workforce as the change is taking place.
As well-designed safety processes are implemented and become integral parts of your day-to-day operations, they will help your organization grow into a more profitable business, as well as a safer place to work.