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Risk in Context

Seven Steps to Drive Safety Culture Through Human Resources

Posted by Larry Pearlman January 22, 2018

Achieving a strong safety culture is difficult. Sustaining it is even harder.  Ideally, improvements in your safety program should survive leadership and organizational changes, and your human resources team can ensure that safety culture is embedded in the workplace.  Here’s how your  HR team can help you address safety throughout the “hire to retire” cycle.

  1. Start at the Beginning: Job Requirements

    It’s essential to cement an approach to safety in which employees will comply with all safety rules and intervene — even potentially stopping work — when they encounter unsafe acts.
  2. The Interview Process: Safety Requirements

    Your organization should define minimum safety requirements as part of its interview criteria.  During the interview process, you can ask candidates “knock-out” questions and conduct behavioral interviews to filter our applicants who are unlikely to enhance your safety culture. Additionally, fitness testing can be conducted to ensure candidates can safely accomplish necessary tasks. This area, in particular, needs  HR expertise to identify reasonable accommodations and bona fide occupational qualifications.
  3. Welcoming Your Safe Employees: On-Boarding

    Once you hire an individual, set clear safety expectations through engaging and interactive mandatory training that reviews key safety rules.  This knowledge can then be tested prior to the employee being cleared to work. Having senior leaders present for this training is fundamental to establishing visible and felt leadership from the moment the employee’s career begins. New employees’ managers should also begin to correct and reinforce safety behavior immediately in order to prevent sloppy habits from forming.
  4. Lifelong Safety Learners: Development

    Safety training and fitness assessments should be ongoing and part of your defined competencies and requirements for progression in the company. The best organizations use the 70-20-10 model for skill development: 70% on the job learning, 20% coaching and mentoring, and 10% classroom training to introduce and reinforce these requirements.
  5. Safety Competence as a Promotion Criteria: Advancement

    Who gets promoted is one of the strongest messages organizations send about culture and safety should be part of that message. Organizations should have explicit safety criteria for promotions.  At lower levels of the organization, this should include completed safety training and participation in safety programs and activities. At higher levels of the organization, this should include visible leadership, technical capability, and achieving safety results.
  6. Incent the Right Behaviors: Reward

    People respond to incentives.  HR can help ensure incentive structures are well thought out, reward the right behaviors, and minimize the consequences of wrong behaviors. 
  7. Correcting Behavior: Discipline

    When individuals fall short on their safety performance standards, take corrective action. There should be a clear process for including safety components into the disciplinary process. 

Working closely with  HR to embed safety culture from “hire to retire” is a powerful combination of company resources. Driving safety culture in this holistic manner will likely not only reduce workplace injuries, but also increase productivity and protect your bottom line.

Related to:  Marsh Risk Consulting

Larry Pearlman

Larry Pearlman is a senior vice president with the Workforce Strategies Practice of Marsh Advisory, located in the Chicago office.