In 2014, workplace fatalities due to transportation incidents rose to 1,891—up from 1,865 in 2013, according to the National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries 2014 report. With that many deaths, transportation occupations accounted for the largest share (28 percent) of fatal occupational injuries of any occupational group. Furthermore, transportation-related accidents accounted for a whopping 40 percent of all fatal workplace injuries last year. With the right training and education, there’s no reason this trend should continue.
The most important change that needs to take place is workplace culture. Employers and business owners—and every level of leadership within a business—need to establish a culture of safety throughout their organizations. Leaders need to model this culture every opportunity they get and in every interaction they have with employees.
Establishing a “safety first” culture not only protects workers and the longevity of the business, it reassures clients and customers that the company does business the right way with care and attention to detail. It’s not a process completed overnight, but here are a few steps you can take to creating a safe workplace for your workers, your customers, and your community at large.
- Develop a common definition of what safety means in your organization.
Before you can get everyone on board with a new program or new initiative, you must first have a common, well-defined expectation. In this case, you need to define what safety means—and what it looks like—at your specific company and for your specific employees. Don’t be vague. Define exactly what the expected behaviors are so there is no room for guessing.
- Empower everyone—no matter their rank—to stop at-risk behavior when observed.
The only way to prevent injuries and fatalities is to curb the risky behavior that leads to accidents. The only way accomplish this at scale is to clearly communicate the message that everyone is allowed to call out risky behavior the moment it’s spotted. From part-time weekenders all the way up to the CEO, everyone must share the responsibility to make safety the top priority. But it’s also important to recognize good behavior. According to Judy Agnew, Ph.D, Sr.Vice President of Safety Solutions at Aubrey Daniels International, “the more actively involved all levels of the organization are in delivering positive reinforcement for behaviors consistent with the desired culture, the stronger the culture will be.”
- Make it routine.
This seems obvious, but it’s the step that often gets overlooked almost immediately. Many companies make great strides creating a safety committee, defining what needs to be done to maintain a safe working environment, and then communicating it out with a big launch. The problem is that’s often the end of the discussion. In order to sustain a culture of safety, it can’t just be an occasional buzzword. Safety needs to be at the heart of every discussion, every job duty, every step in any workplace process. Safety must be the expectation, not the exception to the rule.
- Celebrate your successes.
One of the ways to keep safety at the forefront is to take every opportunity to recognize (publicly!) and celebrate your safety wins. Keep a record of days gone without incident and celebrate each incremental milestone you reach. If your previous record was a week, celebrate your first accident-free month with a company-wide announcement and congratulatory remark addressed to those responsible for breaking the record. Name names—it gives people a real sense of ownership and pride over their achievements and helps embed the culture of safety, which is the ultimate long-term goal.
Establishing what safety looks like and sounds like for your company is just the first step towards creating a lasting culture of safety. Once that definition is in place, consistent communication and action are necessary for company-wide adoption to really take hold. Then it’s a matter of recognizing those who are putting the plan into action so others can see and follow suit. “Targeted positive reinforcement of desired behaviors leads to rapid change,” according to safety expert Agnew, “and the effects multiply quickly as all employees begin to not only display desired cultural behaviors, but to reinforce those behaviors in others.”