Transforming Safety: Adding Value and Engaging Workers
Updated: Jul 18
As a safety consultant, I often wonder if safety programs and strategies truly resonate with employees. If safety were treated as a product, would workers willingly invest in it? The answer to this question reveals the perceived value of organizational safety efforts.
Unfortunately, many safety programs view workers as problems to be controlled, often leading to disengagement. However, what if we shifted our perspective and treated workers as customers of safety? By adding value to their safety efforts, we can foster a culture of engagement and empowerment. This article will explore how a customer-focused approach can revolutionize safety programs and strategies.
From Compliance Problems to Customer Opportunity
The first step towards transformation is shifting our safety vision from a compliance problem to a customer opportunity. Instead of trying to control and limit workers, our new safety strategy should focus on marketing to them. This change in perspective acknowledges that workers have specific needs when it comes to performing their jobs safely. Identifying these needs and aligning organizational efforts to meet them can enhance safety performance and address any conflicting influences.
Targeting Shared Value
Safety initiatives can aim to create shared value once workers are viewed as clients rather than problems. Shared value combines social and economic benefits for both workers and the organization. This approach answers the "what's-in-it-for-me" question for all stakeholders involved. The organization avoids the costs associated with accidents, while workers benefit from a safe working environment and increased motivation. Shared value also forms the foundation for a strong safety culture by uniting the goals of workers and leaders, replacing the traditional "us vs. them" mentality.
Shifting Focus: From Preventing Accidents to Creating Value
A transformative safety strategy shifts its focus from solely preventing accidents to creating value. While this may initially seem counterintuitive, it proves to be a proactive and effective approach. By identifying efforts that add value rather than focusing on risk elimination, organizations encourage proactive behavior and make safety a tangible action rather than avoidance. Workers become active participants in safety rather than passive observers.
The visible effort becomes the driving force behind success, replacing the element of luck and creating a sustainable safety culture.
Positive Tools and Measures
Traditional safety approaches often rely on policing, punishment, and blame. However, these tools can strain relationships and hinder culture development. Instead, a value-add approach emphasizes coaching, positive reinforcement, and collaboration. By fostering strong relationships and positive scorekeeping, organizations can motivate their workforce and transition managers from safety cops to coaches and allies. Measuring the addition of value becomes a leading indicator of safety success, encouraging a focus on achieving positive outcomes rather than avoiding failure.
Aligning Safety and Business Strategies
To fully leverage the value-add approach, it is crucial to align safety and business strategies. Rather than competing for attention and priority, these strategies should synergize to achieve common goals. Organizations that successfully align safety and business strategies often discover that good safety practices contribute to good business performance. Safety professionals must develop a strong understanding of the business side while maintaining their safety expertise. Likewise, business leaders must take an active role in developing safety excellence strategies alongside other operational priorities.
Creating Innovation and Transformation
When efforts to add value to safety mature, they can lead to transformative innovations. Similar to how Apple's iPhone revolutionized the market, safety programs can introduce new products or processes that exceed worker needs and generate new marketplaces within the organization. This realization energizes safety efforts and turns them into innovative pursuits, going beyond simply lowering failure rates. The leading edge of safety lies in developing strategies that focus on adding value rather than control, seeking transformational potential, and understanding that accident prevention is the byproduct of adding value.
By embracing a customer-centric approach and adding value to safety efforts, organizations can create a culture of engagement, empowerment, and innovation. Treating workers as clients and aligning safety with business goals yields shared value for all stakeholders. Transformation occurs when safety becomes proactive, visible, and proactive efforts replace the focus on eliminating risks. With a focus on value and positive tools, organizations can achieve safety excellence and drive continuous improvement. Safety is not just a compliance requirement; it is an opportunity to exceed expectations, foster collaboration, and make a lasting impact on worker well-being.