Data is not how you build a safety culture. Leadership is.
Safety is about preparedness - yet most times even the safety meeting does not meet that standard. How many times have you seen your own safety meetings get thrown together at the last minute? This does not inspire confidence from employees. If the organizer is not engaged in delivering an engaging safety meeting, attendees won't engage either. Why would they?
Employees take their cues, not so much from what you say in meetings, but from what you do with them and your level of conviction about safety. As motivational speaker, Larry Winget, once said: "When you stand in front of a group of people, they won't care what you have to say. In fact most won't even believe what you have to say. But they'll be checking you out to see if you believe what you have to say."
In other words, you need conviction when it comes to organizing and executing the safety program - especially the meetings. If you don't have convictions about both the value of the program outside of the rules (the content and discussion points) and the purpose (the outcome - what you want them to do with the information), you will have a hard time getting employees to engage.
If you want to engage employees to participate in the safety program and to own safety as one of their guiding principles, you have to give them what they want.
Employees want four things from the safety program:
1The Right Tools/Processes. There is a sense of confidence in knowing that an employee has the right tools for the job and the best processes for keeping them safe. An employee who fears for his/her safety is a fearful employee. Confident workers make better decisions. Knowing they have the best tools and processes raises confidence levels. But here's the caveat: don't bury the really good information among all the other extraneous information. Don't make your people dig for the right tools because you throw too much information at them at one time. Be selective about the right tools, the most important information.
2Internal Motivation. We get motivated when we can easily see what's in it for us. Safety is the same. Help your employees to become better safety performers by helping them identify their win for being safe. (Avoiding a loss is not the same as getting a win). How does safety benefit them? Identify their win and you unlock their internal motivation to want to be safe. How is their life better because of safety? Ask that question often. Ask it in a safety meeting. Then, form small groups and task them with coming up with their own answers. When they find an answer that resonates, they will have found their motivation to be safe.
3To Be Valued. As discussed in the previous point, people become inspired when they discover for themselves what they gain for doing safety. You have to drive the point home. Help each of your people to know how much they are valued. Let them know that you and the company are proud of the work they do and the way they do it. Let them know they matter and that each person deserves to be protected by the team. Safety is the best way to show a fellow employee how much they are valued. As David Broadhurst at CodeSafe Solutions in Australia says: "valued people value safety." Never forget that.
4To Feel Proud. When employees do good work, safe work, they should be recognized. When the team accomplishes a new milestone, they want to feel proud. Employee that don't get recognition, when they should, don't connect well with the job or their workplace. People want to feel like they belong and that they are part of a team. They want to feel like the work means something. When they do, they will talk with pride about the work they do and the company they do it with. Proud people keep raising their own bar. They will up their own level of achievement. Make them proud. Give them the feedback that gives them reason to feel proud of their accomplishments.
Getting people to meet the minimum standard of the safety code is the least you're allowed to do, by law. Walking the fine line of barely meeting the standard is no way for people to give their best effort. Nor does it inspire quality performance or any sort of quality standard.
You need to get down to what matters in safety: talking WITH your people - not AT them. Regardless of your position, they are your teammates. They deserve your best effort if you expect theirs. Make sure your people have the right tools, plenty of encouragement, inspiration and motivation. It will help them make better decisions.
Safety is so much more than just statistics, figures, reports, inspections and procedures. Data is not how you build teamwork or a safety culture. Leadership is.
Kevin Burns collaborates with safety departments, safety committees, management and front-line supervisors to accelerate the safety program. Through consulting services to create a personalized plan to accelerate safety teamwork, or a safety meeting speaking presentation to rally your employees around safety, Kevin helps improve engagement and teamwork in safety.
Kevin Burns is a management consultant, speaker and author of “PeopleWork: The Human Touch in Workplace Safety.” He believes that the best place to work is always the safest place to work. www.KevBurns.com