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Safety Management Insights

What CEOs Should Know About Safety Compliance

Posted by Don Brown on Apr 21, 2016 10:00:00 AM

safety-compliance-ceo.jpgCompliance initiatives must be company-wide efforts. From the CEO to the most junior employee, every stakeholder at your company needs to be on board if they want to keep your company safe. However, CEOs often get sidetracked, and their day-to-day tasks make it all too easy to put safety on the back burner.

Even so, there are several ways to keep safety top-of-mind for executives. The process begins and ends with a thorough understanding of the importance, impacts and best practices of safety policies and procedures. Following are a few of the most important things for CEOs to understand about safety compliance.

Motivation Matters

In the policy- and procedure-centric corporate world, it can be easy to downplay the importance of individual motivation. At the end of the day, though, even the best planned policies must be carried out by people, and people will only act when they’re compelled to do so. Employees may reliably come to work and fulfill their roles, but they won’t buy into compliance initiatives without good reasons to do so.

Creating a Safety-Minded Culture

OSHA certainly sees the importance of company culture in promoting worker safety. According to the agency, “In a strong safety culture, everyone feels responsible for safety and pursues it on a daily basis; employees go beyond ‘the call of duty’ to identify conditions and behaviors, and intervene to correct them.” If your employees don’t make safety a high priority, your policy and procedural changes won’t have any effect.

Buy-In is Not Bottom-Up

Cultural change is a top-down process. While in-the-trenches input from workers is critical to creating appropriate, effective policies, employees need to see that their higher-ups value their safety just as much as they do. Working up the chain of command, managers likewise need to see approval and enthusiasm from their executives before they’ll fully buy in.

Roles, Leadership and Accountability

Like any initiative, creating a compliance-conducive culture requires well-defined roles and responsibilities. OSHA recommends the establishment of a steering committee comprised of management, employees, union leadership and safety staff. Stakeholders from each of these groups needs to take ownership of their peers’ interests and needs, and the members must hold one another accountable to an agreed-upon set of rules.

Recognition and Rewards

Rewarding positive safety-related behaviors is just as important as highlighting hazards. Workers can be reminded every day of their on-the-job risks, but they’ll rarely change behaviors until they see positive results. Since a lack of accidents and illnesses is hard to “see,” one of the best ways to foster participation and buy-in to safety initiatives is to officially recognize and tangibly reward workers who do the right things. Ideally, a great deal of this recognition will come straight from the CEO and other executives.

Bottom Line Impacts

Ultimately, OSHA compliance doesn’t just affect workers’ well-being. It substantially impacts a company’s bottom line. For better or worse, the top motive among CEOs for investing in safety is cutting workers’ comp costs (59%). The feeling that investing in safety is the “right thing to do” comes in second at 51%. With some violations costing $7,000 apiece, small, mid-sized and even larger firms can hardly afford to remain noncompliant for long. If you or your executives are on the fence about financially committing to a new set of safety policies, think of the initiative as a cost-saver, rather than a cost.

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