Make safety buy-in about what your employees can gain, not what they have to lose.
We don't buy-in to a financial plan because of what we might lose. We don't buy-in to a healthy lifestyle because of what we might lose. We don't buy-in to personal development because of what we might lose. We don't buy-in to going to university because of what we might lose. But safety is focused on reminding workers of what they might lose if they don't comply - instead of showing people how safety buy-in makes life better.
Stop the scare tactics, gruesome photos and threats of consequence in an effort to force workers into compliance. Stop treating workers like morons who aren't capable of figuring it out for themselves. Safety needs to grow up and start showing a little maturity.
Fear Causes Compliance
The reason safety is tethered to fear and scare-tactics is because fear causes compliance. A cop at the side of a highway can causes fear which is a short-term motivator in slowing people down - compliance.
But not everyone on the highway is speeding. In fact, some drivers, the safe drivers, welcome the sight of a policeman as a deterrent to get the yahoos to slow the hell down.
Not everyone drives over the speed limit and not everyone acts like a yahoo on the job site. Many of your workers have already chosen safety for themselves. They already believe that they have much to live for and want to stick around a long, long time. They make smart choices, safe choices. Exposing those good people to bad marketing (fear-mongering messages) does little to build a solid safety culture.
The Poster-child For Not Buying-In
You don't see a homeless person as the poster-child for not buying-in to a solid financial plan. You don't see a morbidly obese person in a hospital bed as the poster-child for not buying-in to health and fitness. You don't see bored workers in dead-end jobs as the poster-child for not buying-in to self-improvement. And you don't see the poor and destitute living in squalor as the poster-child for not buying-in to getting a good education.
Instead, you see photos of happy, healthy, well-balanced people with nice homes and beautiful families getting congratulatory handshakes, showing plenty of smiles and standing on mountain tops (mountain-climbing is not a pre-requisite to achieving success - just saying). They are the pictures and examples of success - not failure.
But in safety, it's not unusual to see severed limbs, gruesome photos of accidents, cuts and the obligatory gravestone. These are scare tactics focused on the hazards of failure. They are designed to get compliance - not buy-in.
The Great Things in Life Don't Go Negative
The great things in life don't go negative to sell themselves. Success-based strategies focus on positive outcomes. People want to see clearly what they can achieve by following the plan. If you want to get your people to buy-in to safety, focus on what they gain instead of what they might lose.
Lives are enriched by safety in the same way lives are enriched by a solid financial plan, good health, strong personal leadership skills and a good education. What enriches lives and builds a strong safety culture is the team effect - creating a partnership in safety with managers and workers alike. No one wants to see anyone get hurt on the job. No one wants to lose a limb. Your people are already on your side on that point. So if you're both wanting the same thing, make them a partner in your quest for Zero.
The Partnership In Safety
Partnerships cause buy-in. When you inspire your people, and value them, and trust them, and involve them and engage them in all aspects of safety, they buy-in to safety for the long-term. When people are given the opportunity to improve their own workplaces and job sites, they step up and buy-in.
When your employees become partners in safety, they become people who buy-in to safety. Everyone wants to be treated as smart and capable, and when they are treated with respect they will take ownership of safety as a whole - not just the checklist. When they take ownership, pride ensues. When pride is involved, standards are raised.
If you're looking for a way to get the partnership started, consider getting everyone on the same page in a group setting. My safety keynote presentation, Trust The Process: Ten Safety Attitude Strategies To Get You To Zero helps employees develop personal safety leadership and buy-in to a safety attitude - the basis of any safety partnership.