Whether You’re the Corporate EHS Manager or a Laboratory Scientist – a Safe Work Environment Starts with You

August 7, 2012 in Career and Job Search Tips, HR Best Practices



What’s the best way to create a safer food & beverage workplace?

Start by creating a strong “safety culture.”  According to OSHA, creating a culture of safety has the single greatest impact on accident reduction of any process.  Why?  A strong safety culture is more than just a motto.  It’s a system of shared beliefs, practices and attitudes which makes everyone responsible for safety, even when nobody else is watching.  Food & beverage companies that sustain this type of operating environment experience lower accident rates, lower turnover, lower absenteeism and higher productivity.

In a recent Workers’ Comp Insider article, Lynch Ryan reviews safety culture best practices.  Whether you’re a VP, a food scientist, an HR professional or a quality assurance manager, here are a few questions to consider that will help strengthen your organization’s safety culture:

Does health & safety commitment start at the top?  A top-down approach to safety is essential, because what the CEO wants done is what gets done.  If health & safety isn’t part of your company’s mission or vision, it probably isn’t on key managers’ radar.

Is there accountability?  Health & safety goals should be a part of every job description and every performance review at every level of your organization.  Bottom line, everyone must play by the same rules and be held accountable for their areas of responsibility.

Do you have a safety steering committee?  A steering committee has the authority and resources to provide overall guidance and direction for fostering a culture of safety.  Key managers, employees and safety staff should meet regularly to facilitate, support and direct safety processes.

Is safety training and communication an ongoing process?  Creating a culture of safety is not a “once and done” affair.  To maintain it, employees must be continually retrained, processes must be re-evaluated and expertise must be regularly shared via meetings, newsletters, formal training, etc.  The best safety programs also “train up,” since many middle and senior managers don’t know the real day-to-day hazards inherent in their own business.

Do managers and supervisors truly “walk the walk”?  Safety is for more than just line workers.  Managers and supervisors can’t just preach safety; they must lead by example every day.  Do managers and supervisors adhere to the rules themselves?  Are health & safety goals part of managers’ business plans and goals?  Do supervisors indoctrinate visitors and vendors to safety rules when they tour your facilities?

Do you measure performance, communicate results and celebrate successes?  Publicizing safety results is critical to sustaining efforts and maintaining commitment.  Regular updates, progress reports, feedback to the steering committee and other input channels give everyone a voice when it comes to safety.  A safety communication system doesn’t have to be sophisticated to be effective – current meetings, existing newsletters, a bulletin board and a comment box are really all you need.

At the end of the day, workplace safety is everyone’s responsibility.  Whether you work in executive management, food safety or operations, creating a strong safety culture starts with you.  So, what do you do to foster a safety culture within your food & beverage organization?  We at Kinsa would like to know – please leave your comments below.

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