6 Elements of a Strong Safety Culture

In the transportation industry, there can be a tug of war between the Operations Department, tasked with getting things done, and the Safety Department, responsible for getting things done safely.

But safety and operations don’t have to be mutually exclusive. In an article for Harvard Business Review, David Michaels, formerly the United States Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, asserts that “companies can be successful and safe at the same time. The reality is that virtually all workplace injuries are preventable, and safety management and operational excellence are intimately linked.”

It’s a concept we’ve heard echoed throughout the transportation industry by fleets that set the standard for sound safety cultures. The truth is, not every fleet has a great safety culture—but they can. And when they do, it can boost employee morale, improve driver retention and create a happier workplace.

Here, Lytx VP of Safety Services Del Lisk shares 6 signs of a strong safety culture. Where do you stack up? Find out.

  1. Leadership is committed to safety. One glance at the behavior of the company’s executives and it will be clear if safety is a core value at the organization. If it is, safety will not only be a value, it also will be a priority at all levels of the organization—leaving its mark on everything from the company’s mission statement to weekly employee meetings.

    Leadership sets the tone on safety by walking the walk and talking the talk. That’s why, when the CEO of a construction fleet visits a work site, he or she should take care to wear a high visibility vest and hard hat like other employees do. Or, if a trucking company prohibits drivers from talking on the phone while driving, executives shouldn’t be talking on their cell phones at the wheel, either.

    When managers show they’re committed to a strong safety culture, employees receive the message loud and clear and take safety seriously themselves. Every employee has a role to play in safety. When the company’s leadership lives that message, everyone else will, too.

  2. You use data to measure and hold drivers accountable for safety. Holding drivers accountable isn’t a novel concept, but when safety is your goal, the burning question has always been “how do you hold drivers accountable in a fair and effective way?” If you’re out to change driver behavior in the long-term and not just put a Band-Aid on the situation, video is your best bet. Vehicle telematics can be helpful, but when combined with on-board video, fleets have the facts to proactively interact with drivers and improve driver behavior before a collision occurs.

    Most safety issues, when identified, are treated as learning and coaching opportunities, rather than relying on punishment as the mechanism to change behavior. For example, if on-board video reveals a truck driver is falling asleep at the wheel and nearly has a collision, a company with a strong safety culture will sit down with the driver, watch the video clip together, and try to understand why the driver was falling asleep.

    Was he fatigued from a long shift or a scheduling change? Are issues at home stressing the driver? The safest fleets assess the organization as a whole and ask, “What can we learn from this?” And video telematics helps provide those lessons in very conclusive ways.

  3. You rely on new safety technologies to continuously improve. Early adopters of safety technologies believe there’s always a way they can improve, no matter how strong their business model already is. They’re never satisfied with the status quo, and the quest for continuous improvement is in their DNA.

    Fleets with the strongest safety cultures never stop assessing how they can become safer, even after they’ve made big strides. According to EHS Daily Advisor, a magazine for safety executives, “to develop a safety culture, an organization must be informed and continually learning. This involves agreeing on ways to analyze incidents and wanting to learn from near misses before they become accidents.”

    In the transportation industry, early adopters of in-cab safety technologies are likely to have strong safety cultures. For example, by investing in video telematics technologies that can propel fleets to the next level of safety, organizations can protect themselves from liability while demonstrating that they’re dedicated to a safe work environment for all.

  4. There’s an open environment to discuss safety concerns. In a strong safety culture, anyone at any level can share safety concerns with others and they’ll be heard. Some work environments just focus on getting the job done—even if it means cutting corners. But a company with a strong safety culture knows that when employees feel pressured to take risks, it can lead to poor—and sometimes fatal—outcomes. In a strong safety culture, the best safety initiatives originate from employees. But there must be an open environment for employees to share those concerns.

  5. Communications are clear and effective. Hosting weekly or monthly safety meetings, mailing letters home to family, and emailing daily safety messages to drivers can serve as valuable touchpoints that will help you connect with drivers while reinforcing important safety messaging. Many organizations have employees lead safety meetings to increase their level of engagement.

  6. The organization cares about the well-being of employees, and it shows. When leadership cares about company employees, that care is reflected at all levels of the organization. You’ll see things like positive reinforcement, public praise for a job well done, and regular visibility of the company’s leadership as they seek to learn about every facet of the business and improve safety at every level. When employees are treated like the valuable contributors they are, they’re more likely to buy into the company’s safety culture, and it will show in your company’s stellar safety record.

Are you looking to use your strong safety culture to elevate employee engagement? Our Best Practices ebook can help.

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