According to the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the development of a strong safety culture in the workplace has the greatest impact on reducing incidents. This has been confirmed by independent research and inspired many white-collar companies to invest in safety cultures of their own.
The Growing Emphasis on Safety Cultures
What is a safety culture? If you’re asking the question, you aren’t alone. Many businesses and organizations on the outside looking in wonder the same thing.
According to OSHA, “Safety cultures consist of shared beliefs, practices, and attitudes that exist at an establishment. Culture is the atmosphere created by those beliefs, attitudes, etc., which shape our behavior.” But what does that look like in practical terms? Basically, an organization’s safety culture is rooted in a number of unique factors that include: understanding of external threats, sensitivity of information and/or materials, policies and procedures, geographical location, employee expertise and training and company goals and preferred outcomes.
In order for a safety culture to be strong and healthy, everyone in the organization must feel that he or she shares some responsibility for maintaining a safe environment. This includes hourly employees all the way up to executives.
Though safety cultures have existed in some fashion for decades, we’re currently in the middle of a transformational shift. The advent of cyber security threats and more competitive work environments has pressured businesses to place a greater emphasis on the safety and security of their organization.
Here are a few specific trends that have become apparent in 2016 and are expected to continue next year.
1. It Starts From the Top
In the past, safety cultures have failed to mature because only a small percentage of employees bought in to what was happening. One of the key catalysts in the shift toward more robust safety cultures has been management buy-in.
“Top managers must be on board,” OSHA points out. “If they are not, safety and health will compete against core business issues such as production and profitability, a battle that will almost always be lost. They need to understand the need for change and be willing to support it.”
Businesses that have had trouble getting upper management buy-in have found that it’s helpful to break safety and security challenges down into dollars and cents. In other words, they show key decision-makers how much money is being lost due to current processes, and how much might be at stake should an issue arise. Tying monetary value to safety and security is an effective way to get business-minded people on board.
2. Emergency Plans
In the past, safety cultures were defined by a general grasp of where a company stood on key issues such as health, crime, natural disasters, and cyber attack. The difference with today’s leading safety cultures is that organizations are actually developing tangible plans to deal with emergencies.
Mark Sanborn, president of Sanborn & Associates, Inc., a leadership development firm, states that developing a plan and actually having people execute it in simulated situations is becoming increasingly popular in forward-thinking companies today.
“Make sure every employee understands what needs to happen should there be a crisis, whether by a violent person or a natural disaster,” Sanborn says. “A written plan of action should be included in your policies and procedures manual. It is a good idea to vet this plan with your legal counsel.”
Then, every quarter — or at least every six months — your firm should run a drill so everyone knows where to go and what to do. Companies are finally beginning to look at emergency planning in the same way they look at business planning.
In order for the results to be positive, there must be adequate planning, strategizing, and practice.
3. Technological Safeguards
Safety and security have to do with everything from a tornado hitting your office building and destroying records and equipment to a criminal hacking into a computer and stealing sensitive information. There are certain risks that require response planning, however, and other risks that require preemptive action.
In the case of a tornado, there’s nothing any emergency plan can do to prevent the situation. Thus, the emergency plan would address the aftermath and how to respond.
But in the situation of a criminal breaking into a computer, you can do plenty to safeguard preemptively against an attack. According to network monitor and security expert GlassWire, there’s been an uptick in the number of companies looking for solutions to protect themselves against both network attacks and inside attacks.
A network attack happens when a hacker taps into a server remotely, and an inside attack occurswhen somebody with physical access to a computer uses an external flash or hard drive to release malware. Companies have become aware that attacks can come from anywhere and they’re making an effort to invest in technological safeguards.
In fact, according to a Pricewaterhouse Coopers survey, businesses now spend a higher percentage of their IT budget on security than ever. We can expect this trend to continue.
4. Purchasing Practices
Most businesses would like to believe that all their employees have the greater good of the company in mind, but this isn’t always true. There are dishonest, self-seeking staff members in every firm, and businesses have to protect against the ill effects of their decisions.
One way in which companies are protecting themselves is by enacting stricter purchase policies and safeguards that don’t allow employees to process their own transactions. Every transaction above a certain dollar amount should require at least two or three different approvals throughout the organization.
This keeps people accountable and lowers the chances of internal theft.
5. Physical Premises
While most people think of residential burglaries when crime gets mentioned, the fact is that businesses — particularly those that sell actual goods and products — are targeted at least as often. And since the cost of a burglary averages $5,209, companies around the nation are beginning to shift their focus toward stronger physical security.
You can expect that this aspect of safety and security planning will become even bigger in the months and years to come. New developments in cost-effective technologies such as wireless cameras and biometric access are making it possible for businesses to invest in security without having to hire full-time personnel.
As a result, businesses are growing safer from a physical standpoint.
Is Your Business Prioritizing Safety and Security?
The question you have to ask is whether you’re putting a strong enough emphasis on safety and security. If you’re running a large organization, then you probably have some sort of safety culture already in place.
What you may need to focus on is continual reevaluation to ensure your practices and plans are up to date. If you’re running a small business, you may feel like the idea of a formalized safety culture shouldn’t apply to your operations.
Nothing could be further from the truth, though. Did you know that 43% of all cyber attackstarget small businesses? That statistic alone should tell you everything you need to know about the importance of improving your safety and security measures.
From large corporations to small firms, safety and security are becoming a bigger priority all over the country. Are you making sure your company is doing its part of evolving with the times?