Why you should make safety leadership a priority in your workplace
By Joanna Weekes
In follow up to the previous two Health & Safety Bulletins about safety culture, what it is and how to develop safety culture in your workplace, today I have an example for you which demonstrates the kinds of actions an employer can take to help achieve the company health and safety goals.
Without positive safety leadership from management, a culture can develop within a workplace where safety is put in conflict with the company goals to deliver successful business outcomes. This, very dangerously, can result in workers understanding that it is a company belief that putting safety first is a threat to good performance.
Pain suffered by a worker’s injury is an unacceptable price to pay for company leaders refusing to adopt safe practices – not to mention that it is a terrible business decision…
Not only are serious injuries and loss of life devastating for the worker and their family, but the price of unsatisfactory safety processes also include:
- a halt in production;
- stress-related impact on co-workers and performance that always flows in the aftermath of an injury or death;
- the intrusion of workplace regulators stopping production until all risks are removed;
- loss of a skilled worker;
- the cost of finding a replacement; and
- the cost of training a new worker.
All of these result in negative impact on safety culture.
Safety is a process of continuous improvement. It is deeply rooted in your business performance. Any business that adopts the safety mantra of continuous improvement, where improvements to safety are rewarded, will discover the positive business outcomes in profitability, quality, innovation and brand.
Building a culture around safety will result in your business delivering consistently in:
- change; and
- resilience in difficult economic and social times.
A strong safety culture will uphold your business aims but it requires safety leadership from the top. Then, and only then, will workers embrace the value of safety and your business will benefit from the value of leadership.
Frank’s Fast Food Empire Pty Ltd (FFFE) had a history of employees suffering common injuries:
- soft tissue back injuries from lifting boxes of burgers;
- burning themselves near the deep fryers; and
- stress-based illnesses arising from the clients’ demands for service.
Frank Fickle was the owner of FFFE, and as a result of the above problems, he asked his Health & Safety Manager, Cynthia Fixit, to assess and recommend a method to resolve the problems. The problems that concerned Frank Fickle were:
- his WorkCover premium had increased dramatically;
- there was heightened absenteeism (a result of workplace injuries, people taking sick days and generally not attending for personal reasons);
- his use of casuals to solve the absenteeism issue meant that the quality of service had dropped and customers were complaining; and
- he could not retain good staff.
Cynthia prepared a safety plan to implement risk control measures which included:
- installing lifting devices and training for manual handling;
- providing appropriate PPE for people working near fryers;
- providing skill training for all staff on time management; and
- conducting a workshop with staff to determine the best ways to:
- avoid stress;
- manage clients’ needs; and
- develop internal processes to speed up the service through the product/service line from order to delivery.
Cynthia required Frank and all of his managers to be involved in all training. Frank led an initial meeting with all his managers and workers and they agreed to a new safety value: ‘Safety first for everyone!’. This became a key value in the business.
Not only did Frank’s workers agree to the value, but they discussed how to improve their workflow and manage safety.
A series of actions was created by all and endorsed by the managers and Frank. Frank made sure that his managers were constantly on the floor supporting both the value and the actions.
From time to time, Frank would tour the various sites of FFFE to work with his workers, ask questions about safety and ensure they understood that their safety was his primary concern.
Within a year, Frank’s WorkCover premiums were significantly reduced, his absenteeism rates were lowered and he retained good staff. There were fewer injuries, less illness, higher productivity and higher client rating for services. His business began to grow and become more profitable.
Do you foster a positive safety culture in your workplace through good safety leadership?
If not, start putting safety first,
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