3 Ways to Define Your Safety Culture

Did you know that a safety culture is one of the most important risk mitigation strategies? Safety culture isn’t a buzzword – it’s a set of beliefs and practices that shape behavior. But many companies struggle with how to reinforce safety habits and attitudes. Our three tips will help your leadership clarify its definition of safety culture and encourage employees to become safety champions.

1) Start with the Definition

You can’t engrain a safety culture into the fabric of your organization if everyone isn’t on the same page. Keep in mind that safety culture is a subset of your workplace culture. It encapsulates the safety mindsets of every single worker, which is ultimately expressed through what is said and done.

Fostering a strong safety culture has three benefits, according to OSHA. For starters, it has the “single greatest impact on accident reduction of any process.” Safety culture will also lower “at-risk behaviors, accident rates, turnover, and absenteeism.” It even “benefits productivity, staff retention, and the overall organizational culture.”

Every organization should have a written description of its ideal safety culture. This not only includes industry-wide best practices but policies specific to your company as well. Like strategic planning, this should be a living document that is updated regularly. When businesses become complacent about their safety culture, it leads to a pattern of ignorance that eventually becomes costly.

2) Understand Financial Consequences

What’s at risk when your employees are driving in a vehicle with your name on it? Every business wants to protect its bottom line against damaged equipment, workers’ compensation, increased insurance premiums, and even lawsuits. A robust safety culture is a vital part of any successful and effective organization.

However, sometimes employees perceive your safety culture as a Big Brother tactic. This is where transparency is your greatest ally. Your job is to communicate how your safety culture is designed to ensure everyone goes home safe and sound at the end of the day.

To encourage trust, provide context about the financial ramifications of an accident. For example, a typical driver in the U.S. traveIs over 13,000 miles per year, according to the U.S. DOT. But many of our customers’ fleet drivers log over 30,000 miles per year – putting them at a much higher risk for a collision. The National Safety Council calculates that a single accident without any injuries has an average cost of $12,500. However, it is eight times more expensive at nearly $100,000 if there’s a disability injury and over $1.7 million if there’s a death.

Whether in a company vehicle or at a worksite, many businesses can’t afford to ignore safety issues. Being open about your incident record helps employees understand the impact of their actions. It allows them to see how their daily decisions connect to the bigger picture.

3) Reward Behavior

Improving your safety culture can be daunting, but incentives help smooth the way. We advocate for a “carrot, not the stick” approach. Celebrate and reward good safety habits. Use competition to gamify safety and reward your top scorers. For example, our Ready Fleet solution includes driver scorecards with weekly stats on phone usage and harsh driving behavior. Managers should also recognize individual employees who are positively contributing to your safety record. Having all levels of your organization actively reinforcing your safety culture only makes it stronger.

Consistent, constructive feedback should also be a top priority. Integrate training opportunities into day-to-day work rather than addressed in a separate meeting or at shift changes. A safety policy without continuing education or enforcement only leads to noncompliance and failure.

For example, distracted driving is an ongoing concern. The CDC has identified three types of distraction: when eyes are off the road, when hands are off the wheel, or when your mind is off driving. In 2018 alone, over 2,800 people were killed and an estimated 400,000 were injured in crashes involving a distracted driver. Additionally, 1 in 5 of those preventable deaths were people walking or bike riding. This type of up-to-date education reminds fleet drivers to stay vigilant about good safety habits. 

Finally, adopt a mindset of CANI – constant and never-ending improvement. CANI means there is always room to enhance your safety culture. Building a safety culture today is the best way to prevent an incident tomorrow.

Want to learn more about how accidents cut into your profits? Read our post on The Real Cost of Distracted Driving. Compensation claims, vehicle damage, cargo loss, and higher insurance premiums are some of the financial consequences caused by inattentive drivers.

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