4 Tips for Creating a Safety Culture with Buy-in

September 21, 2017

Let’s face it. As the safety manager at your organization, you’re probably not always the most popular person around the office. No one gets excited when the bearer of rules comes down the hallway, and your colleagues probably roll their eyes when you suggest they get excited about safety. Sure, they might begrudgingly follow the rules and processes you’ve laid out, especially when you’re around, but if your team is not truly invested in safety practices, it may be more difficult to get them to stick.

In order for safety practices to be truly understood, adopted and taken seriously, safety can’t just be a checklist. It has to become the culture of your organization, meaning safety has to be thought of as a given part of your daily operations, rather than an extraneous set of tasks.

So how do you take your organization from safety cynics to safety culture? Here are a few tips.

From the top down

If you expect your staff to buy in to a culture of safety, it must become a way of life for everyone at your organization, starting with those at the top. When managers and executives participate enthusiastically in safe practices, it sets the tone for the rest of the team, and sends the message that no one is above safety.

Management’s commitment to safety culture shouldn’t stay within company walls either. Their commitment to safety should be communicated externally as well, to clients, vendors and industry. Not only does this strengthen your safety culture; it also reduces the opportunity for your staff to be asked to perform unsafe work. When the message is out there that you take safety seriously, clients are less likely to encourage you to skirt the rules, and your staff will feel empowered to say no if these requests do come up.

Make new concepts manageable

If you want your staff to embrace a culture of safety—or any culture change—you can’t just spring it on them and expect them to unlearn what they’ve been doing for years.

Instead, you must create the conditions for them to accept change. There are a few ways to do this, including:

  • Introduce new concepts in an outside setting: arrange field trips to other organizations to show what they’re doing and how it’s working for them. New ideas are easier to absorb and accept when they don’t threaten your own routine. Once the concepts aren’t new anymore, adapt them into your company
  • Roll out changes one at a time: unless legislation or imminent danger makes it necessary, don’t bombard your team with constant changes to safety procedures. Build a solid safety foundation and develop it slowly so that safety feels more like a permanent culture, and less like flavour of the week.
  • Speak their language: steer clear of jargon and buzzwords. They might mean something to you, but to your employees, they’re empty and muddy the message. Use plain language that’s easy to understand and easy to get behind.

Get them involved

Don’t prescribe your safety culture. Get your team to actively participate in it.

Talk to them about their experiences and challenges when developing policy. Get their feedback on changes. Listening is one of the most powerful tools at your disposal—employees who feel heard are more likely to participate in company culture.

Give team members responsibilities relating to safety, such as assisting with minor audits or choosing and presenting topics for safety meetings, so that they feel personally invested.

And make it fun! Give them challenges and incentives, start friendly competitions and recognize their efforts. Recognition doesn’t have to be anything big—a coffee gift card or even just a verbal acknowledgement of someone’s efforts at your regular safety meeting can be enough to make someone feel good about their efforts

Getting your team to buy in to your safety culture will take time, but patience, understanding and a sincere desire to connect with them will get you there. You still might not be most popular person in the office (that’s hard to achieve when you’re writing up site safety inspection violations), but you can get everyone willing and happy to participate in making your work environment a safer place.

Measure your progress

Building or changing a culture takes time, and you might not get everything right the first time. Track safety activities, reports and results carefully to see what’s working, what’s improving and where there is still work to be done. The more detailed your measurements are, the better prepared you’ll be to adapt your approach and find practices that work for your team.

Field Relay helps companies access their safety activities, practices and procedures on the jobsite and in the field. Imagine your safety manual online and completely searchable by keyword. Manage and record your toolbox meetings, field level hazard assessments, near misses, incident reports and SDS (MSDSs). All on your mobile device. Hello, paperless jobsite.