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  • Writer's pictureLeverage Safety

The Value of Safety Excellence

Updated: Jul 18

When it comes to safety performance and culture, many companies focus solely on reducing injuries as the ultimate goal of their safety programs. While injury reduction is undoubtedly essential, but it should not be the end goal. Safety and its perceived value have evolved significantly over time, and it's crucial for organizations to recognize this evolution and adjust their approach accordingly.

In the late 1800s, the construction of skyscrapers was accompanied by numerous fatalities. These deaths were tragically considered a part of doing business at the time. Similarly, in the early 1900s, injuries to child laborers in factories were accepted as a norm. However, as time progressed, attitudes toward safety began to change.

Today, many successful companies embrace the idea that safety excellence goes beyond achieving zero injuries. CEOs at industry conferences frequently emphasize the importance of safety, highlighting that a lack of focus on safety can reflect broader organizational deficiencies. While these perspectives from top leaders are valuable in conveying the priority and value of safety, it's important to strike the right balance in the message.

The concept of zero injuries as the sole indicator of safety effectiveness can be flawed. Relying solely on injury rates to define safety excellence may lead to a misguided correlation between the absence of injuries and overall safety performance. This correlation, in turn, can unintentionally encourage risk-taking behaviors within the organization.

The best-performing companies in safety performance and culture take a strategic approach that goes beyond injury rates. Rather than focusing on disconnected initiatives to improve injury rates, these organizations leverage strategic thinking to manage safety as a business. They make deliberate choices and tradeoffs to capture and deliver sustainable value over time.

Organizations need to treat employees as customers of safety improvement efforts to achieve safety excellence. This approach involves creating engagement, interest, and a sense of ownership among employees. Disengagement can undermine safety improvement efforts, even if incident rates improve temporarily. Sustainable results require a culture where employees actively participate in safety initiatives.

One way to add value beyond injury rates is to shift the ownership of safety programs and improvement efforts to employees and line management. Each individual within the organization may have different values and motivations. To understand the value of safety excellence for each person, engaging in conversations and asking for their perspectives is essential for employee engagement, interest, and a sense of ownership.

Conducting brainstorming sessions or group discussions can help identify the "What's In It For Me" (WIIFM) aspects of safety excellence. These discussions should explore the benefits for employees, their families, departments, the company, and even leaders. Through these conversations, organizations can uncover safety excellence's true value and benefits, including increased volunteerism, engagement, trust, stronger relationships, improved recruiting potential, and enhanced quality of life.

It's crucial for safety professionals and leaders to facilitate these discussions and help individuals at all levels discover the value of safety excellence for themselves. Zero injuries are undoubtedly a positive outcome, but true safety excellence goes beyond this measure. It requires a culture that sees the value beyond injury rates and embraces continuous improvement.

As a leader in your organization, consider how you can foster these conversations and make safety excellence a common topic. By moving beyond zero injuries and focusing on the broader value of safety, you can drive meaningful change and create a culture where safety is not just a goal but an integral part of your organization's success.

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