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Ever heard this on a job site?
It’s usually said by the same guy who tells you that when he was a kid, he walked uphill both ways to get to school. He’s from a generation when people were tougher (or at least perceived themselves to be) and when safety gear was unnecessary.
“I only wear this hardhat because I find it stylish”
The truth is that even though the United States workforce has doubled since 1970, on-the-job fatalities have fallen by 68% in that time.
The mentality of being invincible is changing — admittedly faster is some industries than others — but one of the driving forces behind this change can be attributed to creating safety culture within workplaces.
Safety culture is when an organization focuses on health and safety over profits. Some industries develop a safety culture to prevent injury while others develop the attitude as a result of it.
Between 2011 and 2014 the utilities industry had an average of 297.5 hand injuries per year. Mining had an average 1,247.5 hand injuries per year.
Utilities is an example of an industry that developed a safety culture to prevent injuries. This industry has had a long history of enforcing high standards of workplace safety due to the nature of the work and the hazards employees face with their environment and the equipment.
The mining industry is an example of developing a safety culture as a result of injury. Mining has carried well-documented risks since its creation in the 1600s.
In her 2014 Harvard Business Review article, Cynthia Carroll, CEO of Anglo American (an international mining company) stated that the company had suffered 200 fatalities over the previous five years.
“Some company veterans insisted that deaths were inevitable at such a large mining company,” she writes, “because mining is simply a dangerous job.”
Nearly a death a week for five years was written off as a cost of doing business.
“Let’s get out of here, John.”
According to incident-prevention.com, “Safety culture is one of the most significant drivers of an organization’s safety performance.” Once in place, it can guide workers’ decisions based on safety social norms. “In a safety culture, these social norms range from following safe work procedures to exercising stop-work authority without hesitation.”
The benefits of enforcing a high level of workplace safety is simple:
In the end, this will positively affect a company’s financial performance.
Cynthia Carroll began visiting Anglo America plants and decided to shut down their largest plant. She performed a complete overhaul of their safety procedures with a top-to-bottom audit. Then retrained the 38,000 member workforce at the plant.
By placing an emphasis on safety and encouraging employees to take part, Anglo America reduced lost time injuries by 50% and fatalities by 62%.
Positive attitude towards, and promotion of, safety starts at the top with executives and carries down through the organization to those who may be most at risk like new or temporary workers.
(Ready to improve your workplace safety culture? The Advocate Hand Protection Program will help)
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