How to Enhance a Culture of Prevention at the Workplace

culture of safety

When it comes to accidents at work, prevention is the first line of defense. For typical work environments, such as offices, this arguably lies with staff. A strong culture based around prevention only decreases the likelihood of such incidents occurring in the first place. As such, many workplaces should be looking to enhance the various factors and attributes that make up such a working mind-set.

This is increasingly important in today’s world where, despite efforts, the number of work related incidents does not show any signs of slowing down. In fact, the statistics suggest this figure is alarmingly high. A large portion of these accidents can certainly be avoided if due precautions are taken in the first place.

Improving prevention and awareness in the workplace doesn’t just keep people safe, it benefits the company in the long run and shows staff their employer cares about their well-being.

Before we start to explore the options available to business leaders, it’s important to understand that workplace culture involves the business as a whole. As a shared ideology or set of ideals, it is important that everyone in the company structure is involved. Managers are no less involved than their staff, so such measures must be deployed across all levels.

Examples / Demonstrations
In basic psychology, experiencing something first-hand, or as an eye witness, is often a great motivator to avoid repeating events. In other words, nobody will want to play with fire after watching someone get burnt. Of course, this is not to say you should create a work related accident to demonstrate the seriousness, but some form of simulation is useful.

This is already seen in fire drills. The whole point of this exercise is to show how quickly a workforce can get to safety, with a tangible result (in the form of a time) that staff can relate to and keep track of. This can then be extended further, with live demonstrations for first aid, escape procedures, safe use of equipment and so on. This is where many safety measures often fail, as staff simply do not understand the importance. A physical exercise that goes through these details will reinforce the concept.

Rewarding Efforts
If demonstrations serve as a serious warning, then rewarding positive results can act as a strong motivational tool. Safety and prevention needs to be encouraged, so staff should have as many reasons as possible to ensure safety.

Each month without incident should be celebrated, and the whole company should receive some form of reward when new safety implementations or strategies are adopted. Rewards need not be fiscal, as even speaking publicly about it helps to solidify the concept and verbally acknowledge its importance.

Research has shown that employees appreciate it when they are personally treated with respect, which often leads to greater engagement with their tasks. This argument easily extends to safety awareness, as people are more likely to develop awareness and proactive behavior if they feel noticed and respected for their efforts.

Leading From The Front
At the start of this post, a workplace culture was defined as involving all levels of the command hierarchy. This means that those higher up should lead their team and delegations by being the first to take part.

This is one of the oldest arguments seen in the workplace; why should staff take up new schemes when their direct superior is less than enthusiastic?

To further apply this concept, companies should look at, and work within, the existing structure. Motivation, encouragement and passion for safety culture should come from the top, with each  layer working with their immediate staff to spread and develop this awareness. This very much acts like a cell structure; no one individual is in charge of the entire company’s development, but everyone shares a part in promoting and increasing a positive culture.

On the opposite end, be careful not to appoint one, or only a few specific individuals, for health and safety. This creates an elitist niche, both pressuring those tasked and giving those uninvolved additional reasons to disengage. Culture is developed broadly, not through narrow columns. While these positions may be needed in larger organisations, it should involve working and communicating with the wider team, to prevent these isolation issues from occurring.

Tackle Issues Head On
In many workplaces, staff can feel disconnected when they feel they are being ignored or otherwise unheard. If an individual’s complaints or issues keep being unanswered, they will eventually stop trying to improve the company as a result. For health and safety, this means establishing a way for everyone to engage, make suggestions and – most importantly – tackle issues that need to be changed.

If a strong culture is to be developed, staff should be aware of changes, as well as having the ability to instigate them. By allowing employees to become part of the process, they will feel involved. Culture is something that needs to be broadly adopted and this is best done through taking part, speaking aloud and having a company promote a suitable example.

In the end, of course, companies should do their utmost to ensure everything is relevant to their organisation’s line of work. All training needs to be related to what your staff do, as employees will quickly lose interest if they are overloaded with irrelevant, additional information.

The measures shown here can all be adapted into any work place, making them ideal tools for promoting the right mind-set among a workforce.

As a business owner or manager, there are a number of easy ways start this process. Many of these can be started quite quickly, as they ask for your engagement more than vital resources. Nonetheless, a little time and effort can go a great way to setting an example and developing a strong workplace culture of prevention.

What is the most common injury in your workplace? How engaged are your employees, currently, when it comes to preventing such incidents? What methods do you think offer the best way to engage with your workforce in developing a culture of prevention?

I welcome your thoughts, please share them below.

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Marco Bendinelli is an attorney and the founding shareholder at Bendinelli Law Firm. He is devoted to representing individuals who suffered injury or death caused by the negligence or wrongful conducts of others. He also finds time to motivate and inspire through his writings.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.