You’ve trained your workers in the classroom. You’ve even modeled how to perform a task safely on the floor, but accidents still keep happening. What else can you do to help your employees understand just how important it is to follow safety policies and procedures? How can you keep safety top of mind and reduce injuries?
Engaging your frontline workers is the key to driving a positive safety culture and increasing worker performance. Numerous strategies have been launched to engage workers over the years, but choosing the right approach is not as easy as you’d think. Establishing the best approach for your organization must be based on current culture, logistical opportunities, and identified gaps in both worker and leadership knowledge.
The highest impact on a safety culture occurs when companies walk through a roadmap that involves 4 key pillars:
- Establishing a foundation
- Reinforcing the foundation
- Driving key behaviors
- Building on success
Establishing a Foundation
Start at the beginning. Take a hard look at what is working and what is not. Identify exactly where you need to enhance your safety program and begin the process of defining a ‘safety brand’ for your company that addresses those specific needs. Make sure the leadership agrees and supports this approach because it will need to be a long-term mission for your company. If safety is not an important focus for leadership, no one else is will value it.
What is a safety brand? A safety brand is more than just a safety training program, it is a ‘mantra’ for your company; a way of thinking about safety that is so embedded in the culture it becomes a part of the everyday vocabulary and actions of your employees. First, identify and create the most important safety messages you want to communicate. Make sure they are relevant and address the key issues you want to solve. Second, give your safety brand a name and a specific look and feel so it is easy for workers to remember. Finally, provide continuous support using various means of communications to your team.
Reinforcing the Foundation
Less than 50% of learners successfully apply what they know, and up to 80% of information learned is forgotten within the first month. Therefore, reinforcement of key safety concepts is a necessity, but what does reinforcement look like and where should you begin?
Determine which topics, tools, frequency, and messaging are needed for all audiences and ensure you have a good way to track participation in the program. For example, the inclusion of a 24/7 communication program where training is complimented by contextually coordinated posters, huddle guides, digital signage content, and on-the-floor observations will reinforce the most important concepts for keeping your workforce safe. This approach also promotes supervisor/employee interaction and is a key tool to reinforcing behavior along with the use of print and digital media.
Driving Key Behaviors
A safety brand is most successful when it drives and changes the behavior of your workforce. Tracking employee knowledge, comprehension, and behaviors to collect data and identify gaps will help you determine the weakest areas that need additional focus in your program. Enabling your supervisors with easy to use mobile tools and opportunities to follow up with workers using on-the-job observations and corrective actions will greatly enhance how all view and value the safety of the workforce.
Rewarding positive behavior is just as important. Provide opportunities for competition within your workforce between teams and individuals. For those who perform the preferred safety behaviors, give incentives emblazed with your safety brand to encourage this behavior to continue so it grows and gets passed on from employee to employee. Incentives can be something as simple as a certificate or gift card, or more complex with different levels of prizes (t-shirts, blankets, mugs, etc.) depending on how the number of incidents and lost work time decrease in a specific area within a certain timeframe. Workers respond positively and value the program even more when rewarded for their behavior.
Building on Success
Once you've launched your safety brand and started tracking results to identify learning gaps, you will begin seeing positive results. This is great! Employees have started adopting the safety brand and you know that your people are 'getting it.' However, this can be dangerous as early success can also give a false sense of security. Remember, this is a long distance run and not a short sprint to success so it’s important to create an urgency for continuous improvement in your culture to keep information and behaviors from slipping. As all companies experience changes and turnover, ensure the next generation of workers understands and embraces the safety brand. Create an ongoing evolution of the program that consistently drives performance and re-engages employees to remember what is most important. Learn from the program through the collection of data and use that information to inform and improve.
I’ve worked with multiple organizations over the years who have completely transformed their companies by taking this approach to safety and they have experienced excellent results. Don’t your employees deserve the best you can provide when it comes to their safety?