You may think workplace safety should be a priority at your plant. But priorities may change over time because of outside influences and business demands. To truly establish a safety-first workplace culture, safety must become a company value. Why? Values don’t change. Values are innate and instilled and drive your company’s overall direction.  

Here are four ways to help shift your thinking to make safety a core value, not simply a priority: 

1. Set the stage

Employees should know the importance of safety from the first day on the job. Talk about your company values and emphasize that safety isn’t an option or an afterthought — it drives daily operations. Onboarding should include side-by-side work with a trainer to demonstrate important safety procedures and skills, such as lockout-tagout.

Once an employee starts the job, continue to set the stage day in and day out. Kick off every shift with a focus on safety, with collaborative and positive discussions. During sanitation pre-shift meetings, PSSI workers stretch and warm up while discussing safety reminders and what is expected for the night.

2. Continuously engage

Don’t settle for a one-time safety talk. Remember that each team member has a different learning style and attention span. Use a variety of hands-on, auditory, visual and written information to remind workers of the importance of safety on an ongoing basis. 

Making safety training fun can make it memorable. As part of its safety program, PSSI uses hands-on activities to simulate the effect of injuries. For example, team members must wrap a Christmas present with one arm or diaper a baby doll while blindfolded. The difficulty they encounter prompts laughter, but these activities drive home the serious message of putting safety first.

An effective tool for engaging employees during shifts is a two-minute drill. Work stops and supervisors take time to refocus the team’s attention on safety. We see the biggest return on investment from these short mid-shift drills.

3. Never settle 

The industry needs a collective urgency to work together to improve worker safety. Safety shouldn’t be a trade secret. That’s why PSSI shared our findings from projects focused on reducing run times while cleaning conveyor belts and cleaning blenders without energizing. We’ve found lower run times equal a reduced chance of team injury. 

Another step toward improvement is to track which types of injuries cause the most problems for your plant and adjust routines accordingly. In our experience, strains, sprains, burns and eye injuries are the most common safety issues during sanitation shifts. Some of these can be prevented by enforcing weight limits for lifting, upgrading gloves and safety goggles and using warning signs or systems for hazards in the plant. 

4. Celebrate success

As important as it is to stress safety at the beginning of each shift, it’s equally important to rally team members to celebrate safety successes. Track days without injury and celebrate safety milestones as a team.

Another way to gain high rates of engagement is by rewarding team members with special hats or T-shirts when milestones are met. This helps bring everyone together around the same goal and the collaborative spirit of success encourages buy-in and pride. 

Imagine a workplace in which safety does not have to be put on the priority list each year because it is already a core company value. In this environment, accidents rarely happen, smart decisions are made, employees enjoy going to work and teams celebrate a safety culture. NP