Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety,
defines safety culture as: the values, perceptions and competencies of groups that determine their commitment to organizational health and safety management.
However, enterprises often adopt a short-term, highly reactive approach to safety management.
Over time, this mindset results in widespread procedural violations, non-compliance with safety policies – both internal and regulatory – as well as prioritization of production and cost metrics over safety parameters.
Often, instead of preventing accidents, organizations find themselves addressing a risk after an incident or when a new standard or regulation is published.
OSHA Safety and Health Program Management Guidelines encourages a proactive approach for workplace safety and health management that focuses on prevention and continuous improvement. The implementation of these guidelines in small employers in Ohio resulted in:
- 52% decrease in the average number of claims
- 80% decrease in cost per claim
- 87% decrease in average lost time per claim
Through a proactive approach to safety and health management, businesses can also experience improvements in:
- Quality of product, process, and service
- Workplace morale
- Recruitment and retention
- Brand image and reputation
Shift in mindset towards a safety-first culture
Establishing a proactive culture of safety and health management requires a top-down approach from senior leaders at a company. The commitment of the leadership translates into continuous improvement in workplace safety and health by establishing clear goals and objectives, supported by adequate support for the program. This inspires other leaders and managers across the company to emphasize to their respective teams the importance of workplace safety.
Communicating the safety objectives and strategy to the workers along with assigning roles and responsibilities is critical.
Establishing communication channels for reporting, discussions on safety and health and responding in a timely and appropriate manner will help develop a sense of ownership of safety at all levels. To leverage the expertise of employees in their areas of work for continuous improvement – workshops, risk assessments, plant design analysis for safety etc. can become a collaborative exercise.
Establish metrics to measure safety, with incident rate being only one among many. Tracking near misses and events that were prevented will also provide management and safety leaders with insights into ways to improve the safety culture.
Fixing accountability with the intention of developing safe habits and a safe physical environment to prevent recurrences is also important.
Processes and Documentation for Sustaining Safety Practices
For these recommendations to become ingrained in the organizational DNA and be sustained despite employee turnaround as well as regulatory changes, documentation plays an important role. Ticking off the following checklist is a good place to start:
- Create a safety and health policy document signed by the top management
- Share it with all stakeholders, including, employees, suppliers and even temporary workers, as applicable
- Align budgets with your safety and health program and integrate them with the budgeting process by estimating and allocating the resources needed
- Schedule time for workers to participate in the program when creating work plans.
- Communicate performance goals and measures for success across levels to improve accountability and performance
- Encourage employee participation by creating a reporting system for events and near misses anonymously and seek suggestions for mitigation, prevention and improvement
- Document safe work practices and share with workers
- Develop and implement training programs
- Make the investigation process and findings transparent
Automate Safety Management with ComplianceQuest EHS
Safety and health management is a complex process, though essential. In the hubbub of meeting deadlines and carrying out core activities, these programs may remain on paper and not see any action on the ground.
An EHS system such as the one from ComplianceQuest automates the entire safety and health management program, thus making it seamless, efficient and easy to follow through. A cloud-based, scalable, modular EHS system, built on the robust Salesforce.com platform, ComplianceQuest offers an end-end safety management tool with embedded risk management capabilities. It also integrates with other business applications including the EQMS, ERP and CRM – ensuring visibility of safety metrics across the product lifecycle.
If you would like to know more about how the ComplianceQuest EHS can help you implement a robust safety and health management program in your organization, click here.