You can’t use negative tools to create a positive safety culture.
Would you show your love and caring to your child or spouse through the use of guilt, manipulation and scare tactics? Do you think that by using guilt, fear and manipulation, your loved one could get a really good sense of how much they are cared for and valued?
A few years back, while attending a safety meeting, the safety manager closed the meeting with a video of a workplace injury. At the end of the twenty minutes, an employee asked why they were shown that video? The employee pointed out that the story was twenty years old, the regulations had changed, and their own corporate safety manual wouldn’t allow any of the behaviors. He voiced his displeasure at being forced to sit through something that insulted their ability, their teamwork and their commitment to safety.
Safety must stop downloading anonymous Internet photos of injury, guilt and fear-inducing videos, and “don’t do what he did” stories of workplace injury. Scaring people straight may work for troubled teens when they visit prisons. But fear and guilt are no way to honor mature adult employees with families.
Why be different at work?
You hold your spouse and children in your arms and tell them that you love them and care about them deeply. But you force employees to sit through gut-wrenching sessions of fear and guilt. That is no way to effectively tell someone they matter and are valued.
If you wouldn’t do it at home, don’t do it at work. You will never convince your people that you value them when you force them to sit through stomach-churning videos and stories.
Many employees have been affected by the loss of a co-worker. And we learn from these events. We develop new procedures and processes as a result. But we don’t have to re-live the experience again and again for years after. Honor these good people by improving how we do things.
Kudos to the companies who honor their deceased employees with days of remembrance. They create scholarships and bursaries and awards in the names of the employees. These events and awards honor lives, not accidents. Because it is people who really matter after all.
Negative is never uplifting
Resist the temptation to download Internet videos and photos to shock your people into compliance. That’s not leadership. In fact, it’s particularly bad management. It’s negative and negativity is never uplifting. It’s de-motivating and drives down morale. Where skill and the talent are needed is in bringing everyone together to work toward a common goal - not to avoid a failure.
Downloaded Internet videos and photos are an easy time filler. But it’s lazy and undermines a positive safety message. They fill time but send the wrong message. You can’t use negative tools to create a positive safety culture.
Here are three positive strategies you can start to implement immediately to take your safety culture in a more positive direction:
1 Remove the negative. Scour your PowerPoint slides and remove the gruesome and over-the-top pictures of accidents, dismemberments and especially the “Darwin” awards. Do walk-throughs everywhere and look for posters, photos, or anything that could be considered of shock value or those items that are focused on injury. Make this strategy a priority to complete as soon as possible. You don’t want to undermine your own positive message while sticking a negative slide in the middle of your positive safety meeting presentation.
2Reverse-engineer the “do-nots.” Look through your messaging, your slides and even the signage in the workplace for the words stop, don’t and never. Then, once you assess what you want people not-to-do, reverse-engineer it into what you actually want them to do. No one ever goes to the grocery store with a list of what not to buy. Give your people clear instruction, goals and objectives. It’s easy to follow a well thought-out plan with a defined goal and objective. But, it’s impossible to succeed with only instructions of what NOT to do.
3Tell them they matter. Yes, this is an action step. And the hardest work you will do. But it’s the work that separates leaders from mediocre managers. This is one-on-one at its best. Don’t stand at the front of the room in a meeting and claim that people matter if you won’t tell them they matter one-on-one. Because if you don’t do it one-on-one, they don’t really matter do they? If you trust your people, admire their ability and find the work easier with them there, tell them. Let them know that they matter to you. Don’t assume they know. Assume they don’t. And even if they do know, tell them again.
Safety leadership isn’t a title or a certification. It’s a set of values and principles and an example. Leaders go first. That’s why they’re called leaders. Go first. Open the communication. Make people feel valued.
There are many more tips and strategies to help you make your people feel valued, as well as a complete strategy to improve your safety communications explored in great detail in the book, PeopleWork: The Human Touch in Workplace Safety.
Kevin Burns has authored ten books on human performance and safety. Consider bringing Kevin's consulting expertise to your company or have him speak at a safety event.
©2017 ZeroSpeak Corporation and Kevin Burns.
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