So where does safety start? Any company in operation today assumes a certain amount of risk, and that is the first question any safety manager asks. Whether it’s a trucking or office supply company, there is always some amount of danger involved. Now clearly, driving a truck has a lot more inherent risk than selling pencils. Even so, one goal every company should have is to ensure employee safety. Safety in many companies can look like an OSHA poster on a wall or a monthly safety video. Some companies take more proactive steps to prevent accidents and other dangers by utilizing safety technologies and more intensive educational safety programs.
Where Does Safety Start?
The question this paper poses is where does safety start? Does it start with the safety manager, or with new employees making a vow to be safe? Does it start with OSHA? Well, the short answer is no. Safety undoubtedly starts at the top. The people leading the organization are the ones most responsible for its safety. It’s simple. The decisions presidents, CEO’s and CFO’s make determine how safe a company will be. These are the people who decide how much money and attention their company should devote to being safe. Again, the office supply company’s leadership team doesn’t have to invest as much in safety as the trucking company does. Still, it should devote resources to the safety of its employees. This can look like a security system in the office, fire drills and informative literature on how to handle common dangerous situations. The trucking company’s leadership team might invest in driver training, safety technologies and appropriate selection procedures to ensure the hiring of safe drivers.
Safety is Not Just a Poster
A company must ingrain safety into its culture to truly reduce the greatest amount of risk. Typically, the founders of a company establish its culture which is the main reason why safety starts at the top. Culture includes the norms, rituals, shared beliefs and values of the organization. Once established, culture is very difficult to change. If safety isn’t initially an area of focus, then it usually later falls to HR, a safety or risk manager to deal with. For some companies that might be okay. For others who every day assume a great amount of risk, it’s not enough.
Starts at the Top
What many company leaders may not know or undervalue is how much is modeled after their behavior and attitude. If a leadership team doesn’t really buy into a new safety initiative then their direct subordinates won’t either. This will fall down the chain until it gets to the front-line employees. Even if a CEO agrees to invest more resources in a safety program and signs a few checks, it’s not enough. If the CEO doesn’t follow up or isn’t interested in its effects, the program won’t be as impactful as it could be.
Follow the Leader
Employees want to know that what they’re doing matters and that their company cares about them. They often follow the lead of their supervisors. Once there is leadership buy-in there will be company-wide buy in and employees will feel like they are important to the company. This will result in employees putting more effort into their work. At this point, a company will truly be able to improve its safety practices, reduce risk and increase the safety of its employees as well as the general public’s.
Safety is More Than Just a Word.
It’s more than just a poster on a wall or a monthly video. Safety, by definition, is freedom from risk and it’s something every company should focus on. While some companies don’t have as much to worry about as others, the point remains that to be a safe company and have a safety culture, everything needs to start at the top. The leadership team needs to head the charge and prove its commitment to safety and all its initiatives.