“Culture does not change because we desire to change it. Culture changes when the organization is transformed – the culture reflects the realities of people working together every day.”
                            - Frances Hesselbein

The key behind a world-class safety program is maintaining a strong culture where the people work together every day with the same uncompromising core value: that every incident is preventable. The road to forming a culture of interdependence--where a company’s employees aren’t simply expected to work safely but are also expected to actively work to keep others around them safe— can be filled with many challenges both expected and unexpected  but the end result is worth it.

The risk of complacency 
Reaching that pinnacle of zero incidents and increased productivity and then staying there brings its own challenge. All too often, companies that enter into a sustained period of world-class safety performance become complacent.  After all, when a company has  gone 1,000,000 man-hours without an injury—what’s left to achieve?

But while success breeds complacency, complacency breeds regression. It’s subtle at first—a slight, but consistent, reduction in near-miss reports or postponing jobsite safety meetings. However, these seemingly insignificant factors actually underscore an erosion of the company’s safety culture and, when they aren’t monitored and addressed immediately, can begin a cascade of safety failures.

Preventing complacency and regression
World-class companies avoid these pitfalls by continuously monitoring and evaluating their safety programs to identify potential trouble spots before they develop. World-class safety programs evolve  to adopt new safety practices and also to adjust to new and changing climates.

Companies can monitor and evaluate their programs in a number of ways:
  • Annual top-down safety audits, where the commitment, culture and processes are evaluated for effectiveness;
  • Regular employee/management “perception surveys” that identify the gaps in what management thinks of the company’s culture and systems/processes vs. the perceptions of field employees;
  • Leadership training, to reinforce the consequences of complacency;
  • Continuous employee involvement in the evolution of the program and culture through company-wide and site safety committees.
Putting all of the pieces together
This is the last article in a series of articles on developing world-class safety. As a recap, here’s what you need to do to keep your jobsite as safe for your workers as possible.

Step 1: Get an uncompromising commitment from leadership to the belief that every incident is preventable.
Step 2: Create a safety culture where every employee believes in safety as the core value upon which every decision is made and each task performed.
Step 3: Implement the systems and processes that identify and prevent incidents from happening.
Step 4: Continually monitor the results and make the necessary changes to our programs in order to maintain world-class performance.

With these steps, you can ensure that every employee returns home at the end of the day in the same—or better—condition than he or she arrived and your company can be the definition of world-class.

This article is the fourth of a four-part series on achieving world-class safety written by ABC’s Director of Safety Chris Williams. To learn more about ABC’s safety efforts, visit www.abc.org/step.