Safety culture must be more than a paper promise

February 25th, 2005 by Julie Ferguson

We’re big believers in employers committing to a total safety culture. If management can aim for a zero quality defect standard in a manufacturing process, why not hold to the same high standard for preventing “defects” to people?
Are a certain number of injuries considered acceptable? Are worker injuries an inevitable part of doing business? We don’t think so, but occasionally we meet employers that do. When we talk to the “some injuries are inevitable” employers, we can’t help but wonder if they accept the same philosophy in other aspects of their lives. Would they find it acceptable if a certain number of injuries occurred to guests in their home? Or would it be acceptable if they got food poisoning in their favorite restaurant every now and again because accidents are inevitable? Not very likely.
But then again, having a commitment to a safety culture takes much more than lip service or a implementing a policy. A safety policy isn’t worth the paper it’s written on if actions don’t follow the words. In this month’s issue of Industrial Safety and Hygiene News, there is a column by Dr. Dan Petersen that discusses the topic of a meaningful commitment to safety. His commentary is well worth a read. He offers eight characteristics of a positive safety culture that we agree with. They are:

  • management is seen as credible;
  • the words of the safety policy are lived on a daily basis;
  • management