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3-Part Safety Buy-in Strategy

Instead of focusing on what your people might lose, focus on what they’ll gain. Present safety in a positive way.

peace02.pngOne of my clients recently brought up the DSL Strategy in my book,PeopleWork: The Human Touch in Workplace Safety (page 115 if you’re following along). It’s in Chapter 6, “Creating Employee Buy-in.” We talked a bit about it in more detail because the DSL Strategy is intended to be used in place of “shock and awe” campaigns of gruesome photos, gut-wrenching videos and stories of “don’t do what he did.”

Safety has traditionally been focused on pointing out what workers could lose if they make decisions outside of safety: a limb, an eye, their life. These gruesome images and threats are found more at safety meetings than anywhere else in the safety program. The threat of loss is thought to be an effective motivator, one that is supposed to spur compliance with rules. Unfortunately, negative reinforcement as a motivator has little lasting value and requires constant repetition, each time ramping up the degree of shock in order to make an impression. And still, the best you can hope for from this negative reinforcement is simple rules compliance. But rules compliance is very different from a true buy-in to safety.

So the argument has to change. This requires changing the conversation. Instead of focusing on what your people might lose, focus on what they’ll gain. Present safety in a positive way to show your employees, managers and contractors why embracing safety is good for them.

Here’s a brief overview of the DSL Strategy:

DDesire. What do your employees want in the short term? A big screen TV? A new car? Paying for their child’s education? Desire is all of the things that depend on having accessible cash flow in the immediate present. Cash flow requires regular income. Unnecessary risks jeopardizes continuous cash flow and, therefore, fulfillment of desire. That includes what you do when you leave work too. When you’re off shift, there’s no insurance or Workers’ Compensation. There’s an even greater impact on your cash flow when you don’t utilize your safety training at home. Get hurt at home and there is little recourse. When you’re not working, cash flow stops. So choosing safety assures cash flow and fulfillment of those things you immediately desire.

SSecurity. Employees don’t want to ever be a burden to their spouse or kids. They don’t want to experience financial crisis and be forced to downsize their lives. By choosing safety, employees can plan for the future and ensure their own security. Using your safety training provides long-term security. Part of that security focus involves a secure retirement. When you ask people what they plan to do when they retire, everyone has a story. It might include buying an RV, moving to a cabin in the woods, or a beach house. Most people put money away each month to make it happen. But ask if they have a plan for living long enough to reach retirement age and most won’t understand the question. Most people live each day without thinking about how it will affect their retirement plans. Simply put, not every person makes it to retirement age. The safety program is the plan that helps you make it to retirement. Just like putting money away each month for retirement, your people can make smart decisions each day to reach retirement age safely.

LLegacy. In 20 years, if you are asked to give a speech on safety, would it be about how safety gave you a good life and good health, or how ignoring safety cost you a healthy retirement? Your legacy starts today. Each day you build on it. Legacy starts with decisions. Every day we make choices on and off the job, and these choices are a part of how we build our legacy. Choices about alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, or even being overweight can adversely affect an employee’s job performance and long-term health. The decisions you make in the moment can move you closer to or further away from your ideal legacy.

New Call-to-actionA 100-meter sprinter works every day to knock 1/10 of a second off her best time. Why? Because it’s enough to make the difference between winning or losing. Competitive athletes work on skills and techniques to maximize their potential. They fine-tune every day. Much of that fine-tuning takes place on the mental level. It’s no different in front-line work.

As a supervisor or front-line safety person, you can help employees remove the mental barriers to safety buy-in. Address the reasons, excuses and mental barriers that prevent employees from choosing safety. Hash things out in open discussion and encourage dialogue. Facilitate safety meetings that allow attendees to buy-in to a positive plan to move forward with safety as one their guiding principles.

Kevin Burns has authored ten books on human performance and safety, including his most recent release, PeopleWork - The Human Touch in Workplace Safety. Buy it now on Amazon. Then, consider bringing Kevin's consulting expertise to your company or have him speak at a safety event.

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Topics: safety leadership, kevin burns, safety buy-in, safety supervisor, peoplework