In this second installment in a three part series on safety culture in the workplace, we look at the concept of encouraging safe behaviors through employee engagement. Read Part One - Safety Culture: Who Is Getting Your Safety Message 

Safety is a Team Win

What message is your organization sending to employees about its commitment to safety?

Let’s begin with the familiar “days without an injury” statistic. The numbers speak for themselves. They may even be posted in the form of a sign for everyone at work to see. But they only tell part of the story.

We know workplace safety education and training programs positively affect employee safety. Yet, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2014 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, more than 13 people in the United States died each day as result of performing their jobs. The National Safety Council goes a step further by claiming that each of those deaths was preventable. So where do things go off track?

All the safety measures in the world are of little benefit if they are not followed. Motivating employees to use the safety protocols they've learned is therefore essential. That’s where engagement comes in. A standard dictionary definition of “engagement” is “an emotional involvement or commitment.”

The “Four Pillars of Safety,” a white paper from the Performance Improvement Council, offers a number of suggestions for recognizing employee contributions to safety and doing so in engaging ways. (“Engagement,” incidentally, is one of those four pillars, along with” recognition,” “communications” and “measurement.”)

One of those is to offer employee wellness programs. These can be as simple as encouraging employees to improve their health together and offering incentives and rewards for top achievers. Such programs have been a feature of the corporate landscape for over a decade, and according to a recent State of the Industry Survey conducted by Virgin Pulse, they are among the top priorities for responding employers in 2017. That survey, which gathered data from 600 human resources and benefits officers at global organizations, also found that those companies that invest in wellness and engagement can realize measurable improvements in business performance. Seventy-eight percent of respondents indicated employee well-being is a critical part of their business plans, while 74 percent of those with comprehensive wellness programs said their employee satisfaction has increased.

According to the NSC, employers who demonstrate that they care about the safety of their employees can see fewer injuries along with better morale, increased productivity and lower costs.

Now, back to the “days without an injury” sign. While signs and placards are good visual reminders, they tend to be passive, impersonal and monolithic. Most people tend to appreciate at least occasional face-to-face feedback and "tangible" rewards. According to the Performance Improvement Council, surveys that seek to determine why employees left a job consistently find "lack of recognition" and "compensation” as the top two reasons. Recognizing achievements and safe behaviors as they happen or soon after tells employees they are appreciated for being safe and for ensuring they keep a safe work environment.

And when all employees take ownership of their roles in safety at work, it becomes, as it should be, a team effort. Go team!

References:
1. Every Worker Deserves to Make it Home Safe from Work—Every Day, http://www.nsc.org/learn/pages/safety-at-work.aspx?var=mnd
2. Performance Improvement Council, “The Four Pillars of Safety,” white paper March 2014, http://c.ymcdn.com/sites/www.incentivemarketing.org/resource/resmgr/Docs/Pillar-of-Safety_Mar2014_wMb.pdf?hhSearchTerms=%22Four+and+Pillars+and+Safety+and+-+and+Performance+and+Improveme%22
3. State of the Industry Survey Report 2017, http://community.virginpulse.com/state-of-the-industry-2017-wc