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The Journey to Building a High Participation Safety Culture: Part 5- Safety Velocity

This last step isn’t about reaching a final destination. It’s about bringing your company into a High Participation Safety Culture, then maintaining it and scaling it.

Your company has done a lot of work to get here. The CEO made a public commitment to focusing on safety and empowered a safety leader to lead the way. You’ve worked to acquire employee buy-in, then nurtured their commitment by being reactive to their feedback.

The last step is Safety Velocity. You won’t arrive here if you have skipped (or skimmed over) any of the previous steps. For example, if you try to get to this point without employee buy-in, you’re fooling yourself and you’re not going to get here. So, your company should be very proud to get this far.

However, the work is far from over.

You Don’t Achieve Safety Success. You Maintain it

When you get to this level, it’s easy to lose focus and momentum. Many companies do just that and fall short of achieving a High Participation Safety Culture. Or they briefly achieve it and then fall back or rest on their laurels.

In the previous stage (Safety Reflex), we discussed how easy it is to undo all of the work you have done by not being reactive. If your managers aren’t able to quickly respond to frontline safety issues or feedback, you lose employee buy-in. You simply can’t eliminate risk without involving the people doing the work.

This is certainly still the case. As you do more daily safety activities, you need more leaders to maintain a high level of reflex and responsiveness.

You’re no longer creating a High-Participation Safety Culture, you’re maintaining it.

Scaling Safety

The final two steps are about putting in place the people, process, and tools to achieve a High Participation Safety Culture and maintaining it over time.

There is no steadfast roadmap for how you roll out the specifics of your new safety initiative. Companies go on different journeys. We have studied some companies who strive to push their activity and the adoption rate up, company-wide, year-over-year.

Other companies will start with a quarter of their workforce. They set out to get that segment up to one safety activity, per person, per day. Once they achieve that, they add on another quarter of their workforce and work to achieve that same level of activity.

Future-Proofing Safety

Roadblocks are inevitable. You don’t succeed by avoiding barriers. You succeed by planning for them and reacting accordingly.

Your safety leader needs to create best practices and playbooks for anything that can potentially set you back.

For example, how will you react to your CEO forgetting to wear PPE on site? Or a new supervisor coming from a bad culture and spreading the wrong message? Keep looking around the corner for what can go wrong.

Passing Safety onto the Next Generation

In a perfect world, everyone who was a part of this movement towards a High Participation Safety Culture would stay with the company forever. But that’s not going to happen.

How do you make sure the people coming to fill these roles are coming with the right mindset and can help take you where the business needs to go? It’s a broader question of how to maintain business continuity.

It’s just like any other expertise gained through experience. How do you take that, capture it and translate it to the next generation?

For the front-line, you will rely on the playbooks and training materials you have prepared. Also, if you’ve truly built a High Participation Safety Culture, your experienced employees will train new hires “the right way.” New employees see daily safety activities being carried out and know safety is important.

The true test comes when there is a change at the C-level. What if the CEO who started this shift towards safety leaves the company? Will their legacy of safety remain, or will the company spiral back into the old culture?

If the safety leader has successfully sold the ROI of safety and continuously communicated the value generated from safety, the board will keep safety in mind when selecting their next CEO.

It’s now firmly entrenched in the company culture. The board knows that disrupting the established safety culture will hurt the bottom line and the entire company.

Again, safety is a journey, not a destination. It’s also a journey with no defined timeline. Many of the companies we’ve studied see real gains in 12 months, while others will spread their results over a few years.

The important thing is that no steps along the way are skipped. You also need to anticipate potential bumps along the way, and respond quickly to the ones you didn’t see coming.

This was the final part of our series. If you would like to take a deeper dive into the entire process, feel free to download our whitepaper, Building a High Participation Safety Culture.

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