Culture over Compliance: The Difference That Could Mean Fewer Accidents in the Workplace

Companies that integrate safety practices into their daily workplace routines and culture have fewer accidents in the workplace than those that simply comply with regulations and safety policy, according to officials from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in a recent report in Business Insurance magazine. 

Even workers who wear protective gear and complying to the letter of the regulation doesn’t mean they’re necessarily being safe, officials in the article said. And with the cost of a hand injury averaging $50,000 in insurance, lost time and productivity – finding simple ways to weave safety into your company culture may make sense.

Here are three ways you can get a jump start on the process:

  1. Tell stories that are relevant to your employee’s experience: Early social psychologist Herbert Kelman pointed out that changing behavior requires taking a person from begrudging compliance to internalization – or full adoption and belief of what you are describing. Consistent demonstrations and safety lessons are important to this, but more important is breaking down the information in ways that are meaningful to your employees. A story about how someone ended up in the ER after not wearing safety glasses may strike a more persuasive image than showing them injury statistics or claims trends.
  2. Make sure your workplace visuals communicate safety:  Nonverbal communication sometimes speaks louder than your words. If you’re teaching safety, but your shop is a mess with loose cords or misplaced tools, it’s more likely that your employees will take the lesson with more than a grain of salt. Simple practices, like a workplace checklist to keep spaces tidy or changing up the color of work gloves to make the common stand out, can communicate safety isn’t an extra, but central to how you do things.
  3. Develop processes that identify and correct safety and health risks consistently: Seeing something that needs correcting and then handling is another way to nonverbally tell employees that safety is a part of your core culture, and perhaps more importantly, that you value them and the job that they do. Finding a way to incentivize employees to bring potential hazards to your attention goes one step further – engaging them in making sure that all is working as it should be.