5 Steps for Creating a Proactive Safety Culture in Any Company

Recognize This! – Rewarding employees for no safety incidents encourages the wrong behavior. Instead, recognize employees for proactively eliminating safety hazards and creating a safe work environment for everyone.

Does your company have an employee safety program? Even in organizations with largely office-based staff, keeping employee safety front-of-mind not only benefits employees and leadership by reducing lost days to illness or injury, but also communicates to employees that the company does, indeed, care about their health and well-being.

Of course, in industries including manufacturing, construction, engineering, energy and the like, environment, health and safety (EHS) is often paramount to company success. In the U.S., regulatory agencies like OSHA can shut down work sites or impose fines that can cost a company future contracts. In these organizations with a commitment to safety, consulting on the importance of recognition takes on a new level of urgency.

Nearly every company with a strong EHS program also offers some kind of incentive or reward program to encourage desired results. More rare, however, are programs that, first and foremost, reinforce desired behaviors. Case in point – the very typical “no safety incidents” awards. These are structured quite simply such that if no incidents are incurred or reported, then employees are rewarded. But in many cases, these types of programs only serve to encourage employees to sweep incidents under the rug.

Another challenge is the often reactive stance towards safety challenges. Far better to promote proactively desired behaviors that create a safe work environment. For example:

  1. Determine 3-5 core values for safety in your workplace, e.g., innovation, courage, leadership and proactive risk elimination.
  2. Structure a strategic safety recognition program to encourage anyone to recognize others when they demonstrate critical behaviors in line with these values, leading to a safer work environment. For example, recognize a colleague for “courage” when he chose to shut down a work site until an unsafe situation could be resolved.
  3. Very strongly communicate to and train employees on the new approach to recognizing and rewarding key safety values and behaviors. Make sure the emphasis is put on recognizing and rewarding daily behaviors and actions that lead to a safer work environment (and not just avoidance of safety incidents).
  4. Use the data now available to you through the safety recognition program to feature those people who more often contribute to a safe work environment.
  5. Keep the momentum going by regularly sharing detailed stores of safety recognition around a particular value each month.

What other recommendations do you have creating a strong culture of safety?

Derek Irvine

About Derek Irvine

The VP of Client Strategy and Consulting at Globoforce, Derek Irvine is one of the world’s foremost experts on employee recognition and engagement, helping business leaders set a higher vision and ambition for their organizations. As a renowned speaker and co-author of "The Power of Thanks" and "Winning with a Culture of Recognition," he teaches companies how to use recognition to proactively manage company culture. Derek holds a B.Comm and Masters of Business Studies from the Smurfit Graduate Business School at University College Dublin.

4 Responses

  1. […] the company around core values related specifically to your safety initiative. Globoforce’s Derek Irvine has suggested structuring the safety program firmly on values such as: innovation, courage, leadership and […]

  2. When you want to get your employees working toward preventing safety incidents, you need to be doing more than just rewarding them – rewards are important, but so is modeling. You need to show that you care about preventing accidents as much as your employees should. If it doesn’t matter to you, it’s not going to matter to them!

    • Derek Irvine Derek Irvine says:

      That’s true of every desired action from employees, Lyndsay. Management must model desired actions (including recognizing others) in order for subordinates to do so themselves.

  3. Talking to employees and rewarding them for key safety values helps to establish good lines of communication. Communication is very important for establishing a good safety program, as it keeps everyone on the same page. Plus employees are more likely to report something when safety is encouraged by upper staff and the whole team is in on the safety program.

Leave a Reply