Culture of SafetyBy Jaime Vos, AEM Director of Safety Materials

I've received several phone calls lately from numerous business owners asking how to improve their safety training programs for employees.

It’s an arduous task right now, as so many industries have revised their health and safety standards related to COVID-19 mandates. In addition, many new people have entered the workforce or have changed careers, which require learning new skills and training. These put added pressure on companies to review their existing safety materials and procedures for accuracy, while at the same time, do their best to update them to include the latest requirements.

Keeping that in mind, it’s important to remember, that in addition to ensuring your safety policies are up to date, companies need to consider their employee’s state of mind. As a friend of mine recently told me: “After trying to initially understand and adhere to all the health guidelines from last year, businesses are worried that everyone is now becoming complacent.”

He had a point. I had seen the same concerns from other safety professionals in online forums. The biggest question, and one that’s seemingly on everyone’s mind, is:

How do businesses keep their new and existing employees engaged with onsite safety practices?

First, employers should always make sure their existing safety processes are well documented, communicated and updated as necessary. Safety procedures, rules and signage are not only necessary but, in some instances, mandatory in order to comply with local, state and federal regulations.

But it’s also important to understand that employees are human beings and need to feel empowered in their workspace, not burdened with information overload. Many are also primarily focused on their job requirements: deadlines, meetings, budgets, etc. Remembering to follow safety protocol and procedures can sometimes be secondary to a worker who is tired, overworked or moving quickly to beat the clock. How can an organization make safety a priority throughout the workday?

Building a culture of safety within an organization is key. It means all employees are fully committed to achieving safety in the workplace, and that they take personal accountability for the safety of each other.

Organizations can empower their employees to create a culture of safety by implementing the following practices:

  1. Understand the existing culture of your workplace and your employee’s attitudes toward safety. Identify areas for improvement and create a plan that outlines specific goals and objectives. Get everyone behind the plan and communicate their role in making it work.
  2. Ensure that your organization’s leaders are championing the cause. Make sure your employees feel valued for their safety contributions and that they have the necessary materials and resources to do their work safely.
  3. Provide training that illustrates the employee’s role in the culture of transformation, not just learning new skills. Use the opportunity to promote the employee’s proactive commitment in making the safety culture stronger.
  4. Track results and communicate progress. Ensure that employees are owning the process improvements and bringing recommendation forward to implement.
  5. Make safety a priority every day. Implement frequent Toolbox Talks, employee feedback sessions and bite-sized training opportunities. Overcommunicate policy changes, safety protocols and procedure updates. Give employees the opportunity to ask questions and clarify concerns.

Safety training with all its intricacies, local and state requirements, and OSHA regulations, can be difficult to navigate. Companies can ensure success in their safety procedures by building a culture of safety as their foundation. When employees feel empowered to champion safety, everyone wins.

As one safety director told me: "It's not just about rules and regulations, the dos and don'ts. Safety is a value we live by in our company, we take personally and truly own."

Businesses can ensure a safe workplace when leaders and employees make a personal commitment in championing a culture of safety. When goals are established, trained to, measured, and truly owned by everyone working together, the company will be well positioned to improve safety across the organization.

AEM supports safety awareness year-round by offering an extensive array of safety products, including safety manuals and videos, with major equipment types covering aerial, agriculture, compact/portable, earthmoving, forestry, lifting, road paving and utility excavation applications.

Click here to see the complete line of AEM safety materials or visit safetymaterials.org.

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