Taking the next step in further developing your safety culture
Many companies have adopted safety slogans that suggest the ultimate goal is zero harm. But is that enough?
Safety is not just about the numbers that we reflect in our monthly management reports, or on banners or sign boards at the entrance to our respective operations, it’s about people. It’s about ensuring that each and every one of our employees and contractors return home safely at the end of every day.
It’s important to be able to report good, or at least improved, incident and injury rates – it’s a direct reflection of the positive impact of our teams’ efforts. Yet, many companies are grappling with how to get this right – how to ensure an ongoing improvement in their safety culture and statistics.
Many companies have achieved their goal of zero injuries at some stage in their safety journey. Many more have reached that goal, only to then lose it again along the way, while others have not ever achieved their goal of a zero injury workplace.
Then there are those companies that have reflected a continuous improvement in their safety performance over the years, but have now reached a plateau and don’t know what else to do to ensure continued improvement.
So what can companies do going forward?
Depending on the stage at which a company finds itself on the safety journey (and its associated level of cultural maturity), it should focus its interventions at varying levels within the company – either at management level, middle management, broader employee groupings, or at its contractors (or possibly even a combination of these).
However, regardless of where a company is in that journey, we need to focus on developing a “24-hour safety mindset”.
Some of the typical safety slogans we’ve come to see and expect on location include, for example, “zero harm”, “zero injuries”, “we believe zero injuries is possible” or “striving for a zero accident workplace”.
Some companies also have safety slogans on their departure gates, thanking everyone for having worked safely. These visible slogans help promote safety efforts in the drive for zero injuries in the workplace, ultimately improving safety performance.
In reality, these posters also, unfortunately, perpetuate the behaviour of ”switching on and off” to safety practices, as and when employees enter, and then, likewise, when they leave the workplace.
Instead, what leaders need to do is instil a 24-hour safety mindset where employees and contractors think about safety all the time, not just when they’re at work. Safety must become a habit; it must form part of our sub-conscious everyday living, whether at work, at home, driving a car, or just relaxing with family or friends.
Companies need to broaden their communication efforts beyond just work-based safety messaging. These could include slogans that reference work and home safety, home safety toolbox talks, off-the-job safety articles in company newsletters, safety competitions for the children, and family safety days.
Communication should also touch the softer, more emotional aspect of safety, highlighting the fact that we need to work safely for the company, as well as for our families.
Some examples of safety slogans adjusted to promote the 24-hour safety mindset could include:
• From “Our goal is no injuries at work” to “Our goal is no injuries at work and at home”;
• From “Striving for a zero-accident workplace” to “We promote safety at all times – both at work and at home”;
• From “Thanks for working safely today” to “Thanks for working safely today, now please take safety home with you”;
• From “Work safely today” to “Work safely today. You owe it to your families”.
One of the sites in the company that I work for has a large billboard at the entrance, including photographs of employees’ children and a slogan that reads: “Mommy and Daddy, please work safely today. We need you at home” – a very effective slogan that resonates with us all!
A 24-hour safety mindset helps to move employees and contractors from being consciously safe (where they switch on and off, and think about safety only at work) to becoming subconsciously safe (where they act safely out of habit, regardless of where they are).
A subconscious approach to safety reduces the risk of incidents and/or injuries both at work and at home, and, ultimately, makes good business sense: promoting the safety of employees and contractors at work ensures they return home safely to their families, and promoting safety at home ensures they arrive back at work the following day.
There is always more that leaders can do to ensure the overall well-being of employees and contractors. With a 24-hour safety mindset as the foundation, the benefits can be far reaching – from our employees and contractors and their families, to our businesses and overall safety performance and results.
Brian Darlington is the group head of safety and health for the Mondi Group, based in Vienna, Austria. He has filled the role since 2012 and is responsible for safety and health in more than 30 countries. Brian started working at Iscor before joining Mondi in 1987, working in Gauteng. In 2000 he transferred to the Kraft Division in Richards Bay. During 2005, Brian transferred to Europe, taking up the position of business unit SHE manager, responsible for SHE in paper mills in Austria, Hungary, Israel, Slovakia, Poland, South Africa and Russia, as well as forests operations in South Africa and Russia.