The First Step Toward Building a Safety Culture
By Shawn Casemore
July 7, 2021
By Shawn Casemore
Not sure about you, but if I had a nickel for every time someone in a plant had their safety glasses on top of their forehead, I’d be rich. That said, just because they may have forgotten to put their safety glasses back on doesn’t mean they don’t care about safety. There simply hasn’t been a recent trigger that has convinced them that their glasses are necessary protection.
The good news, however, is that you can make it a priority.
Typical approaches to safety are indirect. Employees are asked to read policies or listen to information about machine or personal safety, and then to take an action, such as wear personal protective equipment or operate equipment in a certain fashion. Often there is no “trigger” to influence them to take, and continue to take, safety precautions.
Consider, for example, our current situation amidst COVID-19. We’ve all been triggered by recent events to wash our hands feverishly, yet I predict that in a year’s time, our diligence around handwashing will have relaxed. It will take another significant reminder for most of us to maintain our handwashing diligence on a long-term basis.
Therefore, the question is, what kinds of triggers make safety an ongoing priority?
The answer? Continuously provide relevant examples that get people’s attention and trigger their desire to work safely. I’m not suggesting you need to put stricter policies or procedures in place, but rather use powerful examples that suggest why safety is important.
Here is an example.
When I learned to ride a motorcycle, during training there were several graphic videos that influenced my awareness of safety while riding, at least in the early years. As time has gone on, however, I’ve become less aware of my safety, until, invariably, I have some sort of experience that re-triggers my awareness. Maybe it’s a car cutting me off, or the rear tire slipping in the rain. It takes a trigger to reinvigorate my safety awareness.
What are some of the most powerful triggers?
Personal stories by other employees who have had an incident. Videos that demonstrate what can happen when safety precautions aren’t taken. Recent publication of safety incidents that describe the incident, the outcome, and the safety impact.
It may seem that getting employees involved or even interested in safety is somewhat of a challenge, and it is. However, when you use relevant and powerful triggers, you can get people’s attention, and, more importantly, their buy-in for why safety is everyone’s responsibility.