It’s not as if we completely shy away from the word “culture.” In fact, it can even be found within our company’s Health & Safety Mission Statement along with several other standard phrases(read clichés): “every accident is preventable,” “highest priority,” “measure, evaluate and improve,” “ownership-driven” (and perhaps a few more). We make no apology for the use of such terms that may, for some, seem tired and overused. ICD proudly stands behind its statement and we celebrate every inch of ground gained in improvements throughout all aspects of our operations.
While the words we chose to communicate our commitment to safety may include some of the expected rhetoric, of much greater importance is what can actually be observed and measured by our actions. We could post a big, bright banner declaring “SAFETY IS NUMBER ONE!” in prominent view at our plant. Does that make it so? Of course not. Would a visitor to our facilities be persuaded to believe the banner if our record or observations of our behavior proved otherwise? Not likely. We don’t have such a banner—but we do uphold the message! And the reason why is not just because we’re supposed to.
I think most people that concern themselves with workplace safety would agree that every business, large or small, has a “safety culture”—but whether that “culture” is good, bad or otherwise is determined by what is actually demonstrated by everyone in the company. Simply stating that one has a “safety culture” may have lost the power of reassurance it was once meant to evoke (as described in this great blog by Dave Johnson of ISHN). What if companies shifted their focus to the development of a different kind of “culture?”
At ICD, we understand that safety cannot be compartmentalized into a program and simply managed by encouraging (or enforcing) compliance with policies and regulations—whether such a program is “ownership-driven” or not. Protecting and preserving our collective health and safety can only be accomplished (and truly sustained) by digging deeper to develop and nurture this one thing: care. We genuinely care about each other’s health and safety—at work, at home, on the road, everywhere! We have a “caring culture!”
It may seem overly simplistic (or even obvious) to some, but take a moment and think about it. Rules, regulations, codes, manuals, guidelines, procedures, audits, evaluations, metrics, data, programs, committees, councils, conferences, corrective actions—none of these can prevent an accident. Only people who truly care about safety (for themselves and their coworkers) will prevent accidents!
While we must certainly provide our workforce with thorough health and safety education and training (notwithstanding all of the associated rules, policies and procedures), our greatest efforts must be invested in motivating each other to care. An individual or group who knows the right thing to do might choose to do it. An individual or group who genuinely cares about the right thing to do will choose to do it—the difference between the two is enormously significant! Would I suggest that a caring workforce will never suffer an accident? I’d like to believe it is possible, but no. We are all human and subject to mistakes. However, I absolutely guarantee that a caring workforce will suffer less!
Question: In what ways can fostering a “caring culture” improve safety conditions at your business?