by Ron Pettit, Loss Control Specialist, Harry A Koch Company
Some companies have elaborate, expensive safety programs that achieve only slightly better-than-average results. The reason can be a great mystery, especially when the company is an industry leader.
Most safety efforts are not focused on what the average employee thinks about the company and their attitudes are affecting the safety outcomes. Poor attitudes influence workers to make decisions that aren't always in the best interest of the company.
Organizational climate is the atmosphere of the company. Climate influences employee decisions, attitudes and behaviors, it is the knowledge that employees are good, loyal workers who are less likely to quit if they work in a positive climate.
All employees have the power to make decisions that affect finances. The idea that all employees have authority to make financial decisions can be a little hard to accept. What we're heading for is where pride in the company can exist; where safety is a routine part of the job; where each person is a part of the system, not just a worker; ideas are heard and implemented; and there's a downstream effect between the various parts of management and the company workers.
Employees get most of their opinions about the company from the management representative that they see the most: their immediate supervisor. If all a supervisor ever cares for is productivity, employees feel that all the company cares about is production. So taking short cuts and making accommodations for work efforts is looked on as part of the job and an accepted practice.
Employees who aren't involved in the safety process perceive that their opinions don't matter to the company. Just putting up a suggestion box or announcing an open-door policy won't help much if the immediate supervisor isn't working to show each employee that their suggestions and feedback are wanted. We need to show employees we care about them as real people not just a worker.
People usually do what is important to their immediate supervisor and not much more. Without senior management backing, it's impossible to manage site supervisors who work against the company safety climate. Ultimately, the best safety activities show employees that safety is important, that the people in management care about each employee and that all employees are important to the company.