Across a wide range of industries (in fact, most all of them) safety is the number one priority, and rightly so. OSHA and other organizations, including workers’ unions, work tirelessly to ensure safe environments for people to work in, especially those involved in factory or assembly line work. Employers are right to heed the rules and guidelines set forth by these groups, as they help keep people out of the hospital (or worse), and they also help to eliminate liability on the part of a company if something does in fact go wrong.
But did you know that safety culture and the emphasis on safe behaviors can actually have other widespread benefits for your company? It’s true! There are a number of things that having a well-enforced and effective safety program can help. Here are just a few:
Safety Bonds People
Workforces are only going to be benefited by having workers who care about looking out for one another. When it’s encouraged and not considered “bothersome” for workers to bring up safety issues they observe, people will appreciate the effort that everyone else is making. As with all things, communication is key – an employee approaching a colleague about unsafe behavior can be a negative or a positive interaction depending on how it’s framed. In order to make these positive interactions, train employees on how to start conversations out in friendly manner and make suggestions to each other. Make it known again and again that safety is something where everyone is looking out for everyone else, everyone is on the same team, and no one should feel singled out.
Improvement Culture is Jumpstarted
In lean manufacturing theory, there is a concept of continual improvement; every segment of an operation should be trying to get better at all times. One of the issues that people run into with this among employees is that it then can seem like anything being accomplished at a given time isn’t “good enough” because you’re still working toward something better. Safety as continual improvement culture can help to not only introduce the concept to a workforce, but also do it in a positive light that doesn’t marginalize accomplishments so far.
Safety, unlike performance, isn’t as likely to be taken personally when it comes to evaluation. If you say that, say, performance output could still be improved, this comes across as a negative. Continual improvement in safety, on the other hand, is a given, and therefore you don’t need to explicitly state it or feel like a bad guy when you do. It inherently makes sense to everyone that you want to be as safe as can be, and so each time you say “good job,” it’s accepted that you’ll tack on a “and let’s try for X, X, and Y next month.” When workers are alright with this kind of a system, it makes it easier for you to introduce continual improvement in other areas of your business. That can only, um, improve things.
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Another thing safety does is bring people together across multiple stages of operation or from different departments. While certain safety requirements are specific to certain jobs, others (like first aid and general safety) spread across multiple teams within your operation. Use training time as a way to let employees bounce ideas off of people they might not normally get to talk to.
Peace of Mind
When you’ve got a safe, efficient operation to come to each day, it’s easier to sleep at night even with other stresses that come with management. Additionally, your employees will sleep better knowing that their safety is important and a priority. You don’t want people to be overly complacent, but feeling comfortable and at ease with the state of their own well-being on the job can only be a boon to mental health and work satisfaction.