Let me say from the get-go that building a safety culture in your business won’t happen overnight, it will take time and it will be an ongoing process. It’s kind of like having a puppy (but without everything chewed up all over the lawn). It needs to be nurtured and regularly checked.
Firstly, as a business owner you need to make a conscious decision that a safety culture is something you want and need to build into your business. Safety is not something you can do once a week, or once a month. You need to be living safety within your workplace every minute of every day. That may sound very time consuming and a bit scary, but it will become second nature to you. You will become more aware of what is going on around you in the workplace and you will notice a lot more areas where improvements can occur and where you are doing things well. The first step is to set some goals over a period of time to introduce or improve safety within your business during that period.
No workplace is ever perfectly safe. There are always hazards and risks. The idea is to eliminate as many as possible, or minimize them if it’s not possible for them to be eliminated.
Once you have made the conscious decision to instill safety in your workplace you need to start the communication and consultation process. This is where you start to get your employees involved. You need their involvement as they may be doing tasks to you or they may see things differently to you. Employees are a great source of information and hazard identification. By getting your employees involved you are also increasing workplace morale. They become included in the process.
Develop your policies and procedures and define everyone’s roles
within those policies and procedures. Commence training your employees so they know exactly what is required of them. Once everyone, including owners and managers know what is expected of them they become accountable for their actions.
In your policies and procedures, provide a couple of different ways for your employees to be able to report any safety breaches or unsafe behaviours. This could include notifying a manager or business owner in person or completing a form. It is essential that your managers and business owners are approachable. Staff need to feel comfortable in being able to report safety breaches or unsafe behaviours without any repercussions and knowing that business owners and managers will respond positively to any safety issues that are raised.
Ensure the polices and procedures you put in place are measurable so you can assess whether they are working or not. Reviewing all policies and procedures is an ongoing process and feedback from employees will ensure your business continues to grow and remains a safe workplace. Companies with a high safety culture often have less safety incidents, higher employee morale and higher productivity.
A really good idea is to sign up for regular updates from Safe Work Australia (www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au) and your state Worksafe website (in Queensland it’s www.worksafe.qld.gov.au). They also have some great resources, so grab a cup of coffee and take some time to have a look around these websites. Both Government entities also have Facebook pages for you to like and keep up to date. Use these services to keep up to date with changes in legislation and best practice so you can amend your procedures and staff training accordingly. Toolbox meetings or other regular safety meetings are great avenues to make sure everyone is up to date with new safety issues affecting your business and day to day operations.
If you do encounter a safety issue don’t forget to investigate it thoroughly and in a timely manner. This goes for near misses as well as actual incidents, and don’t forget if it is a notifiable incident you are obligated to report it (see my previous blog post on “Incident Notification” if unsure). Near misses can be used as a great learning tool. They give you the opportunity to change specific procedures or do more training without having an actual incident occur.
If employees can see business owners and managers taking safety in the workplace, and continually working towards keeping everyone as safe as possible and providing ongoing support, employees will be more inclined to take part in the safety culture being built. This can only encourage safer workplaces for us all.
Remember, safety in the workplace needs to be viewed as an investment not a cost.