10 steps key to creating safety culture, consultant tells Safety Council
By Sarah Einselen
The point of fostering a workplace culture of safety is so employees almost don’t think about it anymore, according to Troy Boughan, an Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation business consultant.
“Safety is,” he stated with emphasis on the “is.” “You get to a point where you don’t really think about safety—it’s just the nature of your operations.”
That’s important because at-risk behaviors—actions like abusing drugs at work or taking a shortcut in a process—can lead to accidents, lost workdays or fatalities, accordnig to Boughan.
“And you don’t know when that one fatality may come,” he said.
Boughan spoke to the Galion Safety Council at its Feb. 16 meeting about the BWC’s 10-step safety plan. He fleshed out the steps in the context of creating a safety culture, using the word “culture” as an acronym for the concept’s elements: communication, urging, leadership, teamwork, understanding, recognition and empowerment.
The Ohio BWC’s 10-step safety plan
1. Visible, active senior management leadership
2. Employee involvement and recognition
3. Medical treatment and return-to-work practices
5. Timely notification of claims
6. Safety and health process coordination and employer education
7. Written orientation and training plan
8. Written and communicated safe work practices
9. Written safety and health policy
10. Record-keeping and data analysis
Steps one, two and four are involved in organizational culture; steps three and five in loss-control culture; and steps six through 10 are part of loss-prevention culture.
Source: ohiobwc.com; Troy Boughan, BWC business consultant
Communication is involved in seven of the ten steps. For example, visible, active leadership from senior management is important because “if you aren’t telling your employee what you expect, they’re not going to know what you want them to deliver,” Boughan said. Clear communication that you want injured employees to return to work after appropriate medical care and that you also want employees to alert management of unsafe conditions or actions is also crucial. Written policies help communication, too, he said.
Urging comes in as well as communication. Senior management could urge others to pay attention to safety concerns and invest in equipment upgrades as needed. Managers may speak safety, Boughan said, but if they don’t decide to invest in an equipment upgrade, for example, when a real safety issue is at stake, that speaks otherwise. “Your actions have now defeated your voiced concern for safety,” he said. Urging employees to share their ideas or concerns about safety is part of developing a safety culture as well.
“Leadership is the most powerful component of culture,” Boughan continued. The leadership gives employees the vision and goals and the means to pursue them, as well as providing a role model for them. Then, getting employees involved and recognizing them for their role strengthens the company. “If employees are involved, they have ownership; if they have ownership, they accept responsibility and accountability,” Boughan said.
Teamwork comes with having multiple players—management, employees, health care providers—working toward a common goal: safety. “And just as a football team has a playbook, you need a playbook for bringing people back to work,” he said, after they’ve been injured. Claims filing doesn’t need to be adversarial either, he said, and it can keep costs down if the culture has a team feel and employees don’t feel like they have to get legal consultation for their claim.
Understanding comes in at almost every step in the BWC safety plan, according to Boughan. “Actions speak much louder than words,” he said, and management has to work on understanding the message they’re sending with their actions. Written plans and policies help employees understand what’s expected of them, too. “However, those written safety procedures don’t do you any good if they’re sitting on a shelf gathering dust,” he said, so it’s better to keep them at the site they’re most likely to be needed. Also, “you can’t understand what’s happening in your workplace if you aren’t keeping track,” he said, so record-keeping and data analysis is also key.
Recognition should be part of both management and employees’ work. Managers have to recognize the messages they’re sending, the value that employee input has and the instances in which training is needed to prevent safety issues. “The best accident prevention ideas come from discussions with your employees,” said Boughan. Management should also use record-keeping to recognize what’s happening in the workplace and take any corrective action that’s called for.
Lastly, empowerment comes in especially with active senior leadership and with employee involvement and recognition.
“Don’t be afraid to share power,” Boughan said. Involving employees and giving them a voice in the process empowers them, as does recognizing them for a job well done. In addition, “knowledge is power,” he said. “Empower yourself by knowing what’s occurring in your workplace,” by keeping complete records and analyzing them regularly.
All together the ten steps in the BWC safety plan help a company “focus” on safety—leading to another of Boughan’s acronyms. The “focus” means a company’s employees and managers Form One Common Understanding of Safety. According to Boughan’s wrap-up, that focus results in increased economic value, reduced BWC costs and and enhanced communication and trust, among other benefits.
The Galion Safety Council will hold its next regular meeting at 11:30 a.m. March 15 at the American Legion, 118 S. Market St., Galion. For more information about the Galion Safety Council, visit galionsafetycouncil.com or call Janell Benner at (419) 492‑2477.