When was the last time your employees or managers talked about your company’s safety culture?
Workplace safety culture has grown in importance since the 1980s, when the Chernobyl disaster struck in the Ukraine. The term specifically refers to the ways in which safety is managed in the workplace, as well as the attitudes, beliefs, perceptions and values that employees share in relation to safety at their job.  Though workplace accidents overall have decreased over the past few decades – even as the workforce grows in size – every year high-profile accidents remind us that continuing to improve on safety methods and tools remains as important as ever.
Now some safety experts, including those involved with the UL, are pushing for stronger safety cultures to help address this need. The UL, a premier global independent safety science company that has championed progress in safety measures for 120 years, recently announced as a leading expert in safety that all work sites and companies should establish a safety culture that actively includes all of a group’s employees at all levels.
According to Todd Hohn, UL’s global workplace health and safety director, “The evolution of safety in the U.S. has a long and storied past with memorable tragic and catastrophic events. Each one provides a unique perspective for how we can prevent future events, if we take the time to learn from them. However, we also believe learning happens through ongoing, day-to-day employee engagement in safety, not just when a crisis occurs.”
In short, the UL believes that by establishing a culture that can identify unsafe conditions long before a crisis develops, workers can learn from their mistakes and implement changes before those mistakes become evening news material. The UL also supports strong collaboration between health and safety experts at all companies; traditionally these two functions have been developed and implemented separately, which can create problems due to the lack of communication about these intrinsically linked topics.
Though some might ask why they should do this and go through the “hassle” of developing a strong safety culture, we support the UL’s stance on the importance of safety culture. Not only does developing this culture helps employees health-wise – it also helps a company’s bottom line. Insurancenewsnet.com reports that, “When organizations succeed in creating safer workplaces, it directly contributes to a better financial performance. According to the National Safety Council, a workplace injury takes place every six seconds. J. Paul Leigh, professor of Health Economics at the School of Medicine and Department of Public Health Sciences with the University of California, Davis, estimates that occupational illnesses and injuries cost the American economy $250 billion each year due to medical expenses and lost productivity.”
That’s a big reason to support stronger safety measures! And while supporting worker safety should never purely be a financially-based decision, we’re hopeful that these numbers will encourage more companies to take safety seriously. As the UL put it, a business’ health relies on employee health and safety!
Do you have any thoughts on the importance of safety culture? Leave your thoughts in the comments! And then read more about the importance of, and how to, develop a safety culture here.