How to Create and Maintain a Safe Work Environment

By James Mellor posted 01-27-2020 13:21


Define Workplace Safety for Employees

The best way to maintain a safe work environment is to put workplace safety at the top of your company's agenda.

That means workers hear a strong safety message from the day they walk in the door – their first day on the job. Include a safety conversation in their orientation, making clear all the ways that THEY, personally, will be held accountable for helping maintain a safe workplace.

In addition, today we speak of workplace safety a bit differently than we used to. "Safe and respectful" are our new demands for the workplace – meaning a workplace that keeps everyone safe from bullying and harassment. Make sure workers understand that contributing to a toxic workplace or a hostile work environment could also be seen to violate safety rules.

How do you get your people to care about workplace safety as much as you do? Let them know that you authentically care about them: "Our commitment is to keep you safe – all of you – when you come to work here." Most workers will appreciate your concern – and that you have detailed plans to ensure their safety.

Train a Safety-Oriented Workforce

Today we have stringent workplace safety laws that govern much of how workers behave in factories and processing plants, construction sites, and other obviously hazardous workplaces.

But any firm could find itself facing a hurricane or an earthquake, or a terrorist event. Reduce your risk by preparing workers. Do this with a crisis-communications plan that includes regular training and drills.

Workplace behavior training also lets everyone know what's expected of them. Sexual harassment, anti-bullying, and diversity/inclusion training help make clear where the company stands – and communicate to workers that behaviors that make others feel unsafe at work will not be tolerated.

Regular Safety Communications Maintain the Focus

Keeping the focus on safety can best be accomplished with regular communications. Drill it down with reminders. Reach employees at:

  • Onboarding
  • Annual reviews
  • Periodic team meetings
  • Safety-focused award and recognition events
  • Any and all other company events

Management should address safety regularly – hopefully in ways that encourage rather than criticize.

Use storytelling to pull out the human costs of negligent behaviors at work. After all, before all these rules, unregulated workplaces could be dangerous places!

Tactics like digital safety scoreboards that broadcast the company's record keep safety top of mind – without supervisors needing to say a word.

Finally, lots and lots of recognition has been shown to have a powerful influence on human behavior. Catch your people when they do something good! Recognize it publicly. Maintain a safety focus.

All Workplaces Need Apply

While we commonly think only business sectors like manufacturing, healthcare, and food service need a robust workplace safety program, that's not true! Any workplace can present hazards: say, icy sidewalks, wet floors, gas leaks, or unidentified fire hazards. Then there are non-physical hazards: like bullying and harassment.

By making your position clear from the outset of a candidate's employment – and repeating that position at regular intervals – you can frame the safety issue and keep it present in workers' minds as a major focus for the company. This alone will reduce your risk considerably.