What a farmer can teach you about creating a culture of safety at work

By Higginbotham on September 29 , 2016

Farming workplace safety

As a business owner, you understand that a safe workplace is your best hedge against injuries, workers’ comp claims, medical costs and rising insurance premiums. But a safe workplace doesn’t just happen, and it isn’t just a matter of eliminating risks, making rules and implementing programs. It’s easy to get wrapped up in all of the measures you can take to make your work environment safer – an Accident Prevention Program (APP), Injury and Illness Prevention programs, Personal Protective Equipment programs (PPE) and ergonomic programs, for example.

But these are just tools. Yes, they’re valuable tools that can reduce your risks, keep you in compliance with government regulations and be vital pieces in your overall safety picture. But they’re still just tools, and alone, they won’t create a culture of safety in your organization.

Think about the farmer who grows a crop each year

He has to make sure his tractor, harvester and all other machinery and tools are in working order. He has to make sure he has enough seeds and fertilizer to plant. But he doesn’t throw seeds in the ground and hope for the best. He knows that to raise healthy crops, he must cultivate and nurture them. The soil has to be prepared in the spring. Soil and weather conditions have to be just right for planting. Seeds must be planted a certain way. Then there are the seasonal uncertainties – drought one year, torrential rains and flooding the next. Sometimes crops must be replanted. Sometimes irrigation is necessary. And at every step of the process, timing is critical. It’s a continuous dance with Mother Nature and a constant learning process.

Creating a culture of safety in your workplace is a little like farming. There are numerous tools available to make the job easier, but there are many variables that have to be tended to. And ultimately, safety is a seed that must be planted, cultivated, and nurtured to grow into a thriving part of your company culture.

What does a thriving culture of safety actually look like?

Research has shown that employees’ attitudes toward safety are directly linked to their attitudes about the overall culture of the companies they work for, and there’s a definite link between those attitudes and safety outcomes. Here are five common traits shared by organizations with a vibrant safety culture:

  1. Top to bottom commitment. If your managers display a poor attitude toward safety, you’ll never get buy-in from your workers. When employees see a clear commitment to safety at every level, they’re much more likely to follow suit.
  1. Safety treated as an investment, not a line item expense. You have to be willing to invest in the tools to create a safe workplace, with an eye toward future return.
  1. Safety considered a continuous improvement process instead of a compliance requirement. Get employees involved in the safety decision-making process instead of merely dictating rules and regulations.
  1. Adequate training and information. Immerse your employees in a safety mindset from their first day on the job. Provide adequate initial and ongoing safety training, and make sure they have easy access to information resources.
  1. Blame-free environment. When an accident or near-miss happens, don’t look to place blame. Use the opportunity to learn what happened and implement improvements to avoid a repeat.

Is your company safety culture flourishing or dying on the vine? If it could use some help, give us a call. Our Safety and Loss Control team has just the right ingredients to help you grow a thriving culture of safety that will help you better manage your risks, reduce accidents and injuries and cut costs.

Related: Eight ways to influence workplace safety attitudes


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