Transcending Safety Culture

By: Jesse Smith, Project Manager/Safety Director

   I think the biggest piece of the puzzle when it comes to transcending safety culture in the workplace is getting the employees to buy in to what you are all about. Having your employees understand and respect your role as a safety professional for the company is key to working in cohesion with the field. This is not always an easy process, and certainly does not happen overnight.
   I personally believe the best approach to earning the respect of the field workers is to first understand the nature of their work. Understanding rules and regulations is only the tip of the iceberg. A valuable safety manger knows how to adapt work practices to remain within these guidelines as well as prevent accidents and injuries.
   The hands-on method can be a very effective approach – Offering to help and getting involved in the field work is the best way to learn how certain tasks are accomplished. Understanding what the employees do in the field will allow one to learn how to better assist them when it comes to safety. Furthermore, once you prove your field knowledge you will find employees will reach out for help with safety issues because they know you understand not only the end goal, but the process involved.
   I have found by earning this respect amongst foreman and superintendents, I am included in the planning and work phases, making it much easier to work as a team. It is important for individuals in these positions to view you as a valuable member of the team, not just a safety professional in an authoritative role. Working as a team streamlines every aspect of the safety process. This allows the safety officer to focus on the real issues at hand and not waste valuable time struggling for the respect and cooperation of employees.