How to create a strong safety culture

How to create a strong safety culture

Key takeaways from WOHSS and eCompliance hosted webinar

The Women in Occupational Health and Safety Society (WOHSS) and eCompliance hosted a webinar last week on August 27, featuring speaker Stacey Silva – Enterprise Customer Success Coach at eCompliance. The webinar was focused on safety culture, and how safety leaders can create and reinforce safety culture within their organization.

With COVID-19, the concept of safety culture has shifted due to teams adjusting to new workplace guidelines, increased stress factors and employees working from home. Operational concerns have also arisen for many businesses and organizations, who are wondering ‘how to do more, with less?’

Safety leaders may be feeling overwhelmed by all these new demands and issues, as Silva said during the webinar, “even safety heroes need to take a bit of a break.”

During the webinar, Silva led key discussions around issues facing safety leaders in our current landscape. Here are four key takeaways from the talk:

1. High participation is the key to a strong safety culture. Participation encourages employees to envision change and see actions as a result of their participation. If they’re not seeing actions, they’re not going to feel included and may not want to take part in company culture (and, by extension, the company’s safety culture).

Employees need to feel valued, “a thank you goes so far, and sometimes that's all that they're looking for,” says Silva. “It's those little things, and recognizing that we all need that extra support right now.”

But this not only means strong participation on behalf of employees, it also means solid commitment on behalf of the CEO and upper level management. Safety culture is an extension of company culture, and company culture is top-down.

2. Collating data is also a key part to successful participation. Data creates visibility to what hasn’t be done, what is lacking, so you can see what needs to be done. Oftentimes, safety leaders may struggle to get engagement from their CEO. Silva says that CEOs need data, data can help safety leaders successfully make their case to upper level management and in turn create more engagement which leads to a more successful safety culture.

3. Communicate with, and understand your employees. There needs to be a level of transparency with employees, “people really value transparency,” says Silva. It is important to speak to your frontline workforce to understand stress factors they may be experiencing – this could be COVID-19, mental health, etc. It is essential to understand that high levels of stress have a negative impact on total worker health.

“Don't leave anything off the table,” says Silva, “have those difficult conversations with your team.”

Smaller teams may be experiencing additional financial or operational concerns, as they are forced to move at the same pace with fewer employees but additional stressors.

4. Strengthen safety culture now for a solid foundation in a post-pandemic future . Safety leaders and employees should be developing safety reflexes now. This means encouraging teams to proactively report hazards; ensuring that your organization in driving towards a strong safety culture by practising safety every day; taking the time to analyze how their team is impacted by COVID-19 to be able to come up with a long-term plan.

An interesting point raised during the Q&A portion of the webinar was that every company has a culture, but does that culture match what you want to accomplish?

Finally, it is important to remember, Silva says, that “any real change takes time – keep being persistent.”