We have three responsibilities as a workers’ compensation insurer. One is to cover the lost wages and medical costs when an employee suffers a workplace accident. Just as important, our second task is to help make our clients’ workplace as safe as possible. Third, we need to assist injured workers in their efforts to return to work as quickly as possible. We become more effective in these tasks if a client has, or can create a strong safety culture in which every employee and their outside contractors takes an active part.
Creating such a culture is not just a top-down process. A safe, productive workplace comes not from edict but from a continual process of education, support and guidance married with sufficient resources. We counsel clients on many aspects of maintaining that culture but the real work comes on the shop floor, in the office and in the field.
Employees have a vested interest in staying on the job in order to collect a paycheck to meet their personal obligations and the feeling the satisfaction of doing their best and knowing their work is valued. Employers are similarly motivated. Reducing accidents result in fewer employees going out for injury related incidents which translates to more productivity and lower insurance costs.
The key, therefore, to creating and maintaining a safety culture is making sure both management and employees share in the responsibility.
For management, this includes:
- Developing a vision in which everyone from the boss to the just-hired intern agrees and embraces the idea that safety and staying productive are top priorities and essential to the organization’s success.
- Using a team approach by establishing a core group including line employees to lead the effort. The group’s responsibilities include designing and executing the effort, monitoring results and publicizing successes.
- Establishing common-sense protocols that turn the vision into reality, including immediate reporting guidelines for hazards and accidents, continual contact with injured employees during rehab and transitional duty tasks for employees eager to come back to work.
- Continually communicating and supporting the vision. A safety culture thrives when all employees believe that working safely and staying productive is “the right way to do things.” Management needs to embrace and exhibit these values and employees need to see that.
Employees should provide managers feedback on the program’s success and should be encouraged to take ownership of their personal safety as well as the shared responsibility of the safety of others. There are many ways to do this including regular meetings, a suggestion box, safety drills, forums and surveys. The most important action, however, is to create a reporting culture by making it everyone’s responsibility to continually watch for and report workplace hazards. Those who identify problems and reports accidents promptly should be incentivized to reinforce the culture.
*Patriot Underwriters, Inc. conducts insurance business in all of its licensed states as PUI INSURANCE AGENCY