Question: should safety be a priority?
If you’re like most people, your answer is an immediate and vehement yes. But we’re here to say that safety shouldn’t be a priority.
Not that safety isn’t important, but rather thinking about safety as a priority is the wrong approach. Instead, you should think about it as a core value.
Value vs. Priority
To understand why, you have to understand the difference between a value and a priority.
A priority is defined as an established right to a certain higher degree of importance or precedence. In other words, something is more important than something else.
A value, on the other hand, is a fundamental belief that guides your attitudes, choices, and actions in all respects.
If you think of safety as a priority, you think of it as more important than other factors, but that’s mostly a statement of relativity. If you think of safety as a core value, you think of it as a guiding principle behind everything you do.
Safety as a priority treats safety as another item on the to-do list, albeit an important item. Safety as a core value treats safety as the most important item. More than that, safety is the commonality behind every choice and action.
Think of it this way, our priorities change depending on the situation but our core values usually don’t.
How Does Safety Become a Culture?
Successful safety cultures have several things in common. They have procedures that are written well and that are easy to understand and follow at all levels of the organization. They have leadership who interacts with employees and who quickly resolve identified hazards. And lastly, in a good safety culture, safety isn’t managed from one injury to the next nor is the success of the culture managed by injury rates.
If you’re like many companies, you understand the value of a safety culture but may not know how to make the transition away from managing safety from one injury to the next or judging success based on incident rates.
The key is thinking of safety the right way, not as a priority but as a value and having meaningful safety activities and discussions all the time, not just immediately after someone has an injury. Focusing on the activities that surround identifying and resolving hazards rather than on how many injuries you’ve had is another way to improve the safety culture.
Establishing Safety as a Core Value
How do you establish safety as a core value?
The good news is that if your company has a well written safety program, you’re already on the right path to building a good safety culture. But to bring your program one step closer to thinking of safety as a value, you have to be willing to empower your employees to put themselves and their safety before production and sales. This means empowering employees to do the right things and not penalizing them for it when they do.
Another way to establish safety as a core value is to view it just like you view every other department. Sales, quality, production, engineering, etc., they all have a seat at the table—and so should safety. In an organization with a world class safety program, safety is as much a part of the conversation as any other department.
This is only effective if you can get everyone to share in the mentality that for safety to be a core value, it has to be built into every process, every program and every decision. After all, communities are held together by shared values. So, start with a great management team that wholly buys into safety as a core value and is willing to go the extra mile to deliver on safety promises. This will set the tone for other employees.
Changing the Way You Think About Safety
If you still think about safety as a priority and not a core value, we say it’s time to change the way you think about safety.
All of our safety software is designed with that idea in mind: to treat safety as a core value and a process of innovation. Want to find out how we can change your safety program for the better? Get in touch today to learn more about our solutions.