by Ron Pettit, MS, Loss Control Specialist, The Harry A Koch Co.
Some companies who are considered industry leaders have detailed safety programs that achieve only better-than-average results for worker safety. So why is it when they're so good at everything else, they don’t excel at safety?
Company safety efforts fail when poor attitudes influence workers to make decisions that aren't always in the best interest of the company. Safety culture has apparently worn out its welcome in some companies where new ideas such as behavioral safety have become a popular practice. Worker attitude toward the company, along with the effects of the work environment, certainly should be on our minds in developing a safety culture. For that reason, we need to consider the impact of everything we do in our safety program and policies and what affect it might have on worker attitude.
Attitude is powerful in determining whether outcomes are favorable or not. What we want to develop is a company where pride in the company can exist, where safety is a part of who we are and what we do, where each person is a valued part of the company, worker ideas are heard and there is a sense of balance between management and worker that includes safety.
Employees get most of their opinions about the company from company management and their supervisors. If all a supervisor cares about is productivity, employees feel that all the company cares about is production and they are only a part of that process. When workers are not involved in the safety program, their perception may be that their opinions don't count. Just announcing the importance of the company safety plan won't help much if their manager’s attitude isn't aligned and working to show each employee that their thoughts count.
Ultimately, the best safety programs illustrate to each employee that safety is important, that management cares about each employee and provide proof that all employees are important to the company. There is a reason employees are here, they are one of the company’s greatest assets. A company can have a hundred sales orders or projects but if there is no one to produce the work, the orders or projects just continue to be piles of paper.
A positive attitude is the key to making a safety culture work. Just telling employees “safety is important” will change nothing. Attitude is a noun defined as an expression of favor or disfavor in manner, disposition, feeling or position with regard to a person, thing, or orientation. It only takes a second for an individual’s attitude to go from favor to disfavor. Make sure your company’s safety culture supports positive expressions of attitude at all levels and in all places.