Improving the safety culture of a facility can be a major challenge for new managers. While catching up with one of my peers, we discussed a challenge that her boss had given her. She needed to improve the days without injury and lost time days metrics at her new location, and unfortunately this location did not have an excellent history of safety. In addition my friend had very little experience driving these kinds of metrics. Her background was primarily in HR and this was a completely different role for her.
She was very nervous that her goal was out of reach, so I told her not to focus on that right now with her employees. Instead, she should follow a few simple guidelines (based on best practices) to realize small, but significant changes in the safety culture at her new location. Below are the steps we came up with:
- Train, Train, Train: When there is not a strong safety culture within a location usually that trend starts from day one for new employees. Many of your team members may not even be aware of all of the tools they have available to them to work safely every day. Start at square one and make sure everyone has been trained (even your trainers).
- Management should be Models: While on the floor her and her management team should go above and beyond to make sure they comply with all safety rules at all times. This one seems like a given, but you would be surprised how even the most conscientious of leaders can make mistakes when it comes to safety.
- Reward Small Actions: Don’t wait for a goal to be achieved to recognize the changes your team is making. Even recognizing someone for helping with a heavy lift, following equipment rules, or handling a spill correctly can help to reinforce the behaviors you are trying to instill in your team’s culture.
- Set Smaller Milestone Goals: Although the bigger target may seem far in the distance, don’t forget to celebrate the milestones you pass along the way. For example, you might be trying to reach a year without a recordable injury so celebrate those one, three, six, and nine month milestones!
- Keep the Momentum Going: Once you reach that larger goal do not lose focus! Have a new challenge ready for your team. You don’t want to backtrack on all of the excellent progress you have made.
Try not to be discouraged if it takes a while to reach your goals. Changes like these take time. The good news is when done right; your excellent safety culture is there to stay!