Evaluating Your Safety Culture

Injuries and lost days aren’t always the best measure of an organization’s safety record

Evaluating Your Safety Culture

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For most utilities, having zero injuries is the ultimate safety goal, but this can be very hard to attain especially when you have hazardous job tasks.

Many of utilities and even departments within them can be judged by the number of injuries that occur on an annual basis. So when a utility does have zero injuries, it’s time to celebrate, right? A big pizza lunch for everyone is usually par for the course. Maybe some nice certificates or awards for managers and supervisors. Sounds perfect. 

But does that mean you suddenly have a safe environment for your employees to work? Zero injuries do not always tell the tale of a utility and its safety culture. Some organizations dissuade employees from reporting injuries thereby creating that zero-injury report that looks very nice on paper. In some cases, they might just have been lucky that no employee got injured despite the hazards that go unnoticed and unaddressed. 

I have long thought that for an organization’s safety record to be judged you can’t just look at the negative numbers like injuries to determine whether your track record is excellent or poor or somewhere in between. Safety numbers are often viewed in poor light because you’re dealing with the number of injuries, days away from work, restricted duty days, OSHA recordables, workers compensation cases and many others all have a negative connotation. If those numbers are high, you must obviously have a poor safety culture. So, when the numbers are zeroes, it is easy to understand why you want to celebrate and in some cases you should. 

To really evaluate your organization’s safety culture, there are some behaviors you can look at to get a better overall picture of what’s happening.

1. Do employees keep their work areas clean and free from hazards?

2. Do employees feel comfortable reporting hazards or bringing up safety concerns with managers and supervisors?

3. Do employees feel free to address safety hazards in their workplace?

4. Do employees feel free to report workplace injuries without fear of retribution?

5. Do managers and supervisors encourage employees to attend safety training?

6. Is safety training conducted regularly within your company and is it up to date with OSHA regulations?

7. Are workplace and job site safety inspections within your company a regular occurrence?

8. Are company equipment, tools and vehicles required to undergo regular maintenance and inspections?

9. Does your company have a safety committee that can address safety issues and concerns?

10. Is upper management supportive of initiatives to improve your safety culture including the costs necessary to implement changes?

Getting to zero injuries is certainly a worthwhile and attainable goal to strive for. However, the effort being put into reaching that goal is truly how an organization should be evaluated regarding its safety culture.


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