There’s No Substitute For a Culture of Safety

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iStock-171355485.jpgHayden Powell is a supply chain leader with nearly 40 years experience in the business. He’s taught logistics and supply chain management at Cambridge University in the UK. His biggest concern is employee safety, especially regarding seasonal employees who are on boarded at the busiest time of year and might not receive the same rigorous training as your full-time regulars. “I certainly notice that when we have an initial influx or an initial change, safety becomes an issue,” he says.

His solution? Create a culture with zero tolerance for workplace incidents. That might sound like a draconian way to relate to your employees. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Powell thinks that rules often times just become rules, whereas a culture of safety is about empowering employees to behave safely. “We should have less risk in our place of employment than we do in the home,” he says. “Shortcuts and risks are not acceptable.”

What does this difference look like in practice? “When there’s pressure at work, operators work around the rules to get things done,” Powell explains. “In our safety culture we stress to our employees that they will not take any risk at their place of employment.” Less about creating rules, Powell thinks this sends the message to employees that management has an active interest in their safety.

300x250_fix.pngIn creating a culture of zero accident tolerance, Powell records not just accidents, but near misses. Employees report near misses throughout the day. This gives management an idea of where they can strengthen this culture of safety. Combine this with five-minute check-ins daily to discuss the safety culture and a team lead in charge of safety, and you’re talking about a lot of return for minimal cost. Gadgets and technology can assist this culture of safety, but there’s just no replacement for it.

Especially with seasonal hires, Powell advocates stressing your culture at the earliest stages, even during the hiring process. Your culture of safety will reach seasonal employees in a way that training about “the rules” never will. Safety training should be formal and structured, always with an emphasis on the culture of zero tolerance, rather than memorizing a list of rules made to be broken at the earliest convenience.

“It drives the culture when accidents, shortcuts and risks aren’t acceptable,” Powell says, adding that this culture of safety bleeds over into the home. “You feel sort of invincible just mowing the lawn,” he says, “but I’ve started wearing ear protectors and safety goggles for home improvement jobs.”

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