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The Journey to Building a High Participation Safety Culture: Part 4- Safety Reflex

You told your employees their safety is important. Now show them.

In the previous stages of the Journey to a High Participation Safety Culture, the CEO made a public commitment to safety. Next, they empowered a safety leader to spearhead the new movement. The company has also started to earn buy-in from their employees.

Now, you can lose that employee buy-in if you’re not careful. This 4th stage is called Safety Reflex because it requires rapid responses to employee feedback.

All the changes so far have been at a very macro level, but success at this stage comes from a more micro level. Here’s why.

Build a Responsive Culture

Your employees have listened to you. Now show them you’re listening to them.

The most basic barometer for a High Participation Safety Culture is that every employee is performing daily safety activities. But, you need to show them those activities are actually leading to something real.

Your frontline should be engaged and will start to actively try to mitigate risks. This means they will start spotting potential issues and approaching team leaders with suggestions about safety.

Let’s say one of your workers identifies a piece of damaged equipment that poses a safety risk. They bring it to their supervisor’s attention. One of two things can happen:

1. The supervisor thanks the employee for bringing this to their attention and tells them they will get right on it. The next day, the employee sees the equipment has been repaired.

Result: The employee feels validated knowing their feedback was taken seriously because a swift action was taken. They believe the company is serious about safety and they feel good about contributing to the company-wide goal.

2. The supervisor thanks the employee for bringing this to their attention. However, the next day the employee sees that the equipment is still damaged. Another day passes, and the equipment is still damaged. Then another day.

Result: You’ve lost buy-in from this employee. They now believe that the company is “all-talk” when it comes to safety. They tried to participate, but their feedback was ignored.

The employee in the first scenario will now act as a safety evangelist and help build a High Participation Safety Culture by telling coworkers all about their great experience.

The second employee will also tell everyone about their experience, with a far different message. They’re now jaded and will tell everyone that nothing has changed. This will obviously poison participation.

Prepare Management to Manage Safety

It’s unfair to assume the manager in the second scenario was simply complacent.

Companies are often unprepared to manage the increased workload from a new safety initiative. A newly mobilized frontline means that hazards may be identified faster than the administrators can address them. The paperwork piles up, the employees lose faith, and the hazard reporting stops.

This illustrates how Building a High Participation Safety Culture takes persistent leadership. When a roadblock is encountered, it is important to revisit steps one to three and ensure leadership is strong.

You can see how easy it is to sabotage the work you’ve done in the first 3 stages, if your management doesn’t have the tools or the training they need to respond to frontline issues or suggestions.

Build a responsive culture where management is in a position to quickly react to frontline issues, questions and suggestions. Because every time an employee sees their feedback actually come to fruition, you’ve taken one more step to building a High Participation Safety Culture.

That’s the fourth phase. If you would like to read the entire journey, download our whitepaper, Building a High Participation Safety Culture.

Rethinking Safety

Drive employee engagement by connecting
your frontline to your boardroom.


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