Transforming Organizational Safety Culture through Lean Management

It is not the elements of one’s safety program that will get one to world-class safety, it is when you impact the culture so that every individual, without exception makes safety their daily priority.” ~ author Robert Hafey of “Lean Safety, Transforming Your Safety Culture with Lean Management

Rising healthcare costsIf American industry is going to further cut into the billions spent each year on occupational injuries and illnesses, it’s going to have to evolve from a reactionary-based safety culture to a pro-active one. Many companies have already adapted to a LEAN approach to safety and are realizing the results. Others have lagged behind due to scarce resources or the lack of management commitment. But with ever rising healthcare and workers compensation costs, company executives are starting to devote attention towards transforming their safety culture and gain some control in these cost centers.

Make Employee Safety a Company Value

Mutual trust is the cornerstone to transforming an organization’s safety culture. To gain that trust, a company must place a high value on employee health and safety. The most effective way to demonstrate it as a company value and to gain trust, is to engage employees in the process rather than direct them.

Author Robert Hafey of “Lean Safety, Transforming Your Safety Culture with Lean Management” states, “everybody is responsible for safety…a safety program should consist of an employee-based safety team that can help engage workers in a lean safety culture. Using non-management individuals in a 3-year term with 5 or 6 people leading the safety team can help engage your work force in safety. By involving these workers in a safety program, you start to build trust that management cares. To get to world-class anything it’s really all based on trust and you have to earn your employees’ trust.”

Culture Change Takes Time

The LEAN approach to employee safety and health is a multi-year process with cost benefits being realized incrementally. Eliminating ‘waste’ in your business processes is the ultimate goal and as long as injuries and illnesses occur, there is more work to be done.

Hafey states, “It’s a cultural change — how people think, act and interact. So if you’re going to change that, you’re not going to do that in 6 months. It’ll probably take a couple years as it takes time for workers to understand and adjust to their new roles.”

Rising Healthcare and Workers Comp Costs

With rapidly rising healthcare and workers compensation costs, more and more companies are focusing more resources towards pro-active employee health and wellness that saves money. And for good reason as studies continue to report a positive return-on-investment for every dollar spent on employee health, wellness, and injury prevention.

Companies with a pro-active safety culture typically experience lower costs, fewer accidents and ergonomic injuries, reduced absenteeism and turnover, and higher productivity. In such a culture, everyone is responsible for employee safety with coworkers looking out for each other’s well-being.