For far too long, safety has been associated negatively and with people getting into trouble. Someone watching over your shoulder to make sure you are following the rules. Just waiting for any chance to catch you out.
This has often been referred to as the policeman mentality. It has also assisted in giving safety professionals, like myself, a bad reputation. Apparently we can’t wait for someone to get hurt so we can say “I told you so. That is why we need all this paper work. It must have been your fault.” Certainly, there are the strong whip, policing type that reinforce the stereotype that safety professionals are there to catch you out.
However, most safety professionals (most of them that I know, that is) are here to help and assist the workers and the Management teams establish a positive and proactive safety culture. There is nothing worse than finding out that one of the workers has been injured. Even if it is a slight injury. And even worse, when the worker is immediately blamed.
Every now and then, we need to snap out of the old thinking and Celebrate Safety. Not by simply bunging on a BBQ because the LTIFR (Lost Time Frequency Rate) has lowered past the annual target, but really Celebrating Safety (side note for a discussion at a later time: celebrating LTIFR can be very damaging and reduce incident reporting, among other negative results).
How often does your workplace take the time to recognise a worker that had a great idea and reduced risk to themselves or others?
When was the last time a member of the team was rewarded for going over and above when it comes to safety?
Positive reinforcement shapes the habits of the future.
What I mean, is that if we are rewarded for doing what is expected (at unexpected intervals), there is more chance of that positive behaviour being replicated.
How many of you slow down when you see a police car or a speed camera? It is a habit that has been ingrained within us all as we are aware of the negative outcome that may occur if we are caught speeding.
Not everyone has been caught speeding before, but we know about the negative consequences. That’s because people share experiences. When was the last time someone told you that they were booked? I’m sure you know someone that has been booked in the past year or two.
Let’s bring this back to the workplace. How many people do you know that has been pulled up for allegedly working in an unsafe manner at work? Again, you can probably think of a few examples.
Now, how many people can you think of that have been positively recognised or rewarded for doing the right thing when it comes to safety? Hopefully there are a few of you out there that can.
Celebrating Safety in the workplace, if done correctly, can assist in positive experiences and stories being shared. These stories have the potential to inspire others to follow in the footsteps of others, striving for a safer workplace.
Recently, Red Insight had the pleasure of Celebrating Safety with our Principal Risk Consultant, James Brown. James won the WHS Champion of the Year category at the 2017 Hunter Safety Awards.
Several other organisations and individuals also Celebrated Safety at the Awards night on the 17th of March, 2017, whether they were Finalists or took home the trophy. They all were recognised for excelling in the field of Workplace Health and Safety.
Each one of these people will be able to share their successes and stories with others in their workplace, and beyond.
Not all recognition has to be as grand or glamorous. Simple acknowledgement is a great start, such as pointing out how well they protected a hazard with barricading or completed their Take 5 with detail.
Let’s turn the negative stigma on Workplace Health and Safety around in a positive direction so we can all work in a safe work environment and Celebrate Safety.
Monica Toews Brown