5 ways to build a culture of safety

Tess Lynch, 4 min read

Culture is something that we focus a lot on at my company, Yarno.

We work on ours continually, mostly because if you don’t, it’s easily forgotten.

It’s the foundation of our business, it’s how we operate, and it’s how we present ourselves individually; at work, with clients, in general. But for building a culture of safety, beyond meeting compliance and setting up safety policies, what else is there?

I’ve found five things you need to do when trying to build a successful culture of safety, but first, let’s look at what a culture of safety actually is.

What is a safety culture?

The term ‘safety culture’ is thrown around quite a bit. It seems as though everyone who is serious about creating a safe workplace has a safety culture yet, honestly, it looks like a lot of talk and kind of pointless.

But, ‘safety culture’ is more than just a buzzword. It’s the way a business does things and encompasses, not just their approach to safety, but their approach to everything.

Building a culture is less about creating safety policies (although, don’t get me wrong, those are essential) and more about the mindsets, attitudes, and behaviours of workers and managers.

Alright, definitions down, let’s get to how to build your culture of safety.

1. Value safety

All safety cultures put a high value on safety (surprising, I know), so it just makes sense to have safety as a core company value.

Making safety a value solidifies it in the foundation of your business – putting it not just in the forefront of your team’s minds, but your customer’s too.

Most companies have a set of values that every employee can list and that every customer sees when looking into your service. Great companies use those values and incorporate them into products and everyday operation.

Having a company safety vision or value will allow safety to be incorporated in the practices of everyone in the business. It makes it not just a concern for those who can in injured by unsafe actions, but a priority for everyone.

2. Set goals

When trying to improve anything, you need to know what you’re working towards.

So, set goals.

Set a realistic goal for safety that’s not just an unspecific statement. Although we all love the term ‘no harm goal’, to help build a safety culture you should set a series of more specific goals that are both actionable and measurable.

Setting a company, team, or even individual goal will give workers something to work towards. By making those goals measurable, your team can gain a feeling of accomplishment when practising safety, which will hopefully act as an incentive to continue. This will allow you to pinpoint the areas you need to improve on and the areas you’re excelling in.

If you’re wondering how to set specific and practical goals, at Yarno, we set OKRs – standing for Objectives and Key Results – each quarter. This method gives you an overall goal, a way to measure it, and initiatives to get you closer to your goal. This site provides an excellent explanation.

3. Involve everyone

A culture of safety is a company-wide initiative that everyone should be involved in – meaning even those managers who never get out in the field should be around it.

Managers, leaders, and safety officers should be well versed in all safety practices and exhibit them in their own everyday activities. Like in all things, leadership should set the standard for everyone else and provide workers with a practical example to mirror.

But you don’t just need to involve management more, you need to include workers more too. For workers to really take on the safety mindset, allow them to participate in the safety strategy process and provide a forum to openly discuss safety; their concerns, ideas, and achievements.

4. So. Much. Training

To be able to follow safety policies and practices, workers need to know what they are. That’s where training comes in.

Doing the initial hard yards and teaching your team how to be safe, whether that’s through face-to-face training days, workshops, or on-the-job, is step number 1, but it’s not the last step. To change the behaviours of workers and build a habit of safe practices, training needs to be refreshed, revised, and updated regularly.

A lot of the time with one-off training, workers remember what they learnt for a week and then forget it the next. The problem is when workers only learn something once, there is little knowledge retention – and that retention is what’s going to help build safe habits.

This can happen even after developing new safety methods. You may have a recurring safety breach. You create a foolproof system for workers to stop these breaches from happening, yet after a while, you get another breach.

This probably isn’t a problem with your method, but with training delivery. Bringing in a training method that increases retention and deliverers training progressively, rather than all at once, without disruption, can help reduce risk and build up that culture.

If you want to know more about how you might use this type of training, check out Ron Finemore Transport's experience.

5. Call out success!

When you reach your goal or a milestone toward your goal, celebrate it!

Improving safety is good for your reputation, it’s also just good in general, so you’ve earned some bragging rights.

Calling out individuals for going above and beyond for safety or on reaching their own personal goals can provide incentive to continue to follow safe practices and encourage them to speak up about how to improve them. Being rewarded creates a favourable opinion of safety and is what helps build that safety mindset.

These are just a few steps to help you build a culture of safety in your business. If there are again I missed or if you have any advise, let me know!

Tess Lynch

Tess Lynch

Tess is a design savant, fashion leader and a pretty darn good writer. Whether it’s creating digital designs, blogging about learning science or rocking a neck-scarf, Tess can pull it off.

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