The following is based on a conversation with Jerry Roach, Director of Safety at Kimball Electronics.

No sensible manager would ever ignore the importance of safety in the workplace. Where some might fall short, however, is the extent that safety is woven into the foundation of their business plan. Safety should never be an afterthought; it must be treated proactively. It’s also about far more than just compliance – having a strong safety system is about doing what’s right. By participating in that system, every employee from executive to hourly has the opportunity to make a difference.

Implementing a strong safety system, though, can have its challenges, but following the tips below could help ease that process.

1. Don’t just react to problems, anticipate them

It’s too often that companies don’t emphasize safety until it’s too late – running to problems after they’ve already happened. Smart leaders are proactive about safety, taking action to avoid hazards before they manifest in accidents or injuries. Taking steps to identify and mitigate risks builds better awareness, visibility, and preparation.

An essential part of being proactive is refusing to become complacent. It’s a constant trap, as complacency is a part of human nature. Operating on the belief that if everything seems fine, it is fine, is dangerous. Even if there haven’t yet been accidents or injuries, you cannot assume workers are protected. It’s easy to get comfortable with success; even companies awarded for their safety practices cannot rest on their laurels and let standards slip. Every company must be proactive; constantly evaluating existing practices and procedures, and actively looking to identify new hazards. Safety is never, ever done.

2. Safety must be modeled by leaders

This starts at the top. All leadership must lead by example, modeling what a strong safety culture looks like in action. Leader buy-in into safety shows employees how much they are valued, instilling a sense of pride. When workers’ morale improves, so does the quality of their work. The benefits don’t stop there, either. Effective safety practices are essential to building and maintaining a good public reputation. They can also prevent critical financial losses – rising medical costs mean insufficient safety measures cost cold, hard cash, now more than ever.

3. Build from the ground up

While safety culture is modeled by those at the top, it must also be the bedrock of company culture. Safety isn’t just a line item in your overall budget – it’s integral to every facet of a business. From worker’s compensation claims to efficiency to morale, safety means everything to the bottom line. Leaders can further emphasize this by tying safety initiatives to company KPIs. Rethink the idea of a safety program itself. Call it a safety system, one that takes over your culture and your company, running the process itself.

4. Make safety interesting

It’s important to make safety ever-present, interesting, and even fun. Traditional training approaches don’t necessarily work for everyone – some don’t learn well from videos or manuals. It may sound silly, but something as simple as turning safety slogans into meme-style imagery can ensure that safety practices reach everyone and have staying power.

5. Learn from those around you

Managers also have to be willing to learn from the larger safety community. Sharing case studies and training procedures with others in the industry, even competitors helps protect the health and safety of workers everywhere. This collaborative spirit is key – learning what has and hasn’t worked for other companies allows managers to remain proactive and anticipate potential future hazards.

Want to learn more about implementing strong safety systems? Listen to our conversation with Jerry Roach, Director of Safety, Environmental and Facilities at Kimball Electronics on the TRUCE podcast, ‘No Accident’.

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