No two companies are alike. Nonetheless, companies with excellent workplace safety records tend to have a few things in common. They don’t worry about regulatory fines or astronomical legal fees, for instance. They also tend to pay lower-than-average workers’ compensation insurance premiums.
Where the similarities matter most, however, are not in what these companies have achieved, but how they’ve achieved it. An exceptional safety record doesn’t happen by accident. In almost all cases, it’s the result of strategic planning, a commitment to safety, and the right habits—a combination of actions and attitudes adopted by people up, down, and across the organization.
In other words, wherever there are few or no incidents, there’s a strong safety culture. And like sustainable ecosystems or winning sports teams, all safety cultures share a few basic elements:
1. Dedication to a Goal to Improve Employee Health and Safety
Safe companies put their EHS initiatives in writing. They frequently start—as Schneider, Alcoa, and Bayer did—by setting a goal of zero workplace injuries. That goal may sound unrealistic, and merely establishing it doesn’t change anything, but it does provide a shape, a direction, and a set of key performance indicators for the hard work ahead. Safe companies aren’t deterred by the effort it may take to reduce incidents. And they know the only way to get there is to define what “there” looks like.
2. Adherence to a Safety Policy Within the Company and Its Supply Chain
Safe companies create EHS policies and stick to them. If a zero-injury goal is the “why,” policies are the “how.” Without them in place, there’s no way to consistently ensure and measure proper workplace behaviors. From injury prevention to accident reporting, from equipment checks to hazard communication, effective policies cover as many departments, job functions, scenarios, and variables as possible—and they’re followed by workers at every stage in the supply chain.