The Benefits of Creating a Safety-Aware Environment in the Workplace

Safety in the workplace is undergoing change: evolving from an optional extra to a compliance necessity, firms are now increasingly recognizing the many benefits of developing, and committing to, a strong safety culture. These range from increased staff morale and increased productivity, to reduced injury-related costs, competitive insurance premiums and improved turnover profits and reputation.

However, encouraging a culture of safety involves more than mere lip service. Safety-orientated values, long-term commitments to firm-wide safety, and consistent concrete actions will determine which organisations will reap the rewards of creating and maintaining an effective safety culture.

What is meant by a “Safety Culture”, and why is it important?

Safety in the workplace saves lives; it also saves money. According to the 2013 Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index, US businesses lose more than a billion dollars a week in compensation costs arising from the 10 most common workplace injuries and illnesses – incidents which could be prevented with proper safety measures in place. These figures do not account for the associated productivity losses and administrative expenses, which are estimated to amount to a further $120 billion, annually.

Too often, safety in the workplace is regarded as an expensive option, and the cost of implementing an effective and comprehensive safety policy becomes the firm’s overriding concern. However, the costs to a company of not developing and nurturing a positive safety culture are high in many regards. A poor safety record will result in the following knock-on effects:

• Higher insurance premiums
• Lost productivity
• Higher injury and illness rates
• Expense of replacing injured / ill workers
• Expense of high staff turnover
• Compensation and legal costs
• Damaged employee morale
• Cost of replacing damaged property

Furthermore, not only will an organisation’s profits / turnover suffer, but also its reputation – the cost of which is largely unquantifiable.

So what is meant by a “Safety Culture”?

A culture of safety in an organisation is one where safety in the workplace is intrinsic in the values and standards of the firm. However, it is not enough for the organisation to hold specific values; these must manifest themselves in the words the organisation uses, as well as in the actions it takes.

The principles held need to be properly and consistently communicated to staff. The words used, as well as the tone, will impress upon all personnel how seriously management takes safety in the workplace. Staff members will always take their cue from the managerial communication they receive, overt or otherwise; if these are consistently positive and supportive, the foundations of a positive safety culture will be laid.

As with any situation, however, actions speak louder then words. Any actions, however small, which decision-makers or managers take to encourage, promote or support safety in the workplace will have a positive knock-on effect on all personnel. (As a corollary, positive verbal communication will have little impact if it is not backed up by similarly positive actions.) The most effective actions which senior staff members can take are those which overtly reward safety-oriented behaviour in others. This, more than anything, will send a message of the importance of safety to the organisation.

Altogether, a firm’s safety culture is a combination of its values, communications and, above all, its actions.

Developing your Firm’s Safety Culture
All firms have a safety culture – however, not all have a positive one. Before you can take steps to develop your firms, you need to determine what sort of safety culture is already in place.

Identify Your Own Culture
The first step is to communicate with the personnel tasked with the organisation’s safety – the appropriate manager or consultant. This will give feedback on what the firm would ideally wish its values to be. The reality, however, may be quite different, and can only be assessed from the ground up: by communicating with all staff members, and identifying their perceptions of the organisation’s safety culture.

One of the most efficient and comprehensive means of communicating with a staff about its safety culture is to develop and circulate questionnaires. To ensure honesty and candidness, any such questionnaire should be stated to be anonymous, free from negative consequences, and be aiming to act positively on the information gathered.

In addition, a questionnaire should address a broad range of safety culture indicators; as a guide, one of the leaders in Safety Culture, Dan Petersen, identified 20 safety management categories, including: Attitude Towards Safety, Inspections, Employee Training, Supervisor Training, Involvement of Employees, and Operating Procedures. Such categories are worth considering as a guide when developing or reviewing questionnaires.

Having determined how strong – or otherwise – your organisation’s safety culture is, you can then take stock and design a plan for moving ahead. If your firm has a weak culture, then the first steps to take are to liaise with senior management to identify the firm’s policy. As a safety officer, you may initially be met with resistance, usually in relation to the perceived cost of implementation. Some of the costs and effects of a failure to develop a strong safety culture have been set out above, and should be communicated as necessary.

Develop and Improve Your Firm’s Culture
Irrespective of your organisation’s existing position, there are numerous steps that can be taken to improve a firm’s culture. Obviously, all action taken should consider the organisation’s industry, size and structure, but here are some examples of actions which can apply irrespective of such confines:

• Involve Your Staff
The best way to develop a strong safety culture is to involve all personnel. Empowering staff sends the message that their role in the success of the firm is crucial, and plays an important role in encouraging staff morale and pride. Staff can be involved in a myriad of ways, from providing feedback on firm policies, having a safety liaison officer, creating a safety committee, or developing plans pertinent to specific departments.

• Operate from the Top Down
The best way to ensure safe behaviour in the work place is to have it mirrored from management. Any safety policy implemented needs to be demonstrated by senior management and decision makers.

• Introduce a Mentor Programme
A safety mentor programme is an effective way of introducing new staff members to the safety culture. As well as creating positive expectations from existing workers, it creates role models for incoming staff to follow.

• Implement Effective Training
Training itself is not sufficient: it must be effective. To this end it should be:
Comprehensive enough – too much information at one time is more likely to be forgotten;
Ongoing – one-off training is not enough. To demonstrate a real commitment to safety, training needs to be regular and periodic;
Flexible – effective training should be able to accommodate all levels of audience;
Relevant – tailor each training session according to the appropriate department; and
Organic – it should “grow” with the staff members.

• Diarise Safety Reviews
To be fully effective, a safety programme should also incorporate regular reviews. It is worth, therefore, considering periodic meetings to discuss and review safety, looking not only at internal issues and incidents, but also to discuss any relevant matters which have occurred within the industry which could have an impact on safety in your firm.

• Display Your Safety Message
Visibility is key in creating a culture. Publicising your values tells your staff that you are serious about, and committed to, your safety culture.

• Recognize and Encourage Positive Action
Ways of doing this include creating a periodic Safety Worker award, publicizing positive safety actions across the firm or even the industry, or implementing smaller, less formal means to highlight within the organisation steps taken by individuals.

• Communicate Effectively
Finally, it is not enough for an organisation’s management to communicate its values and ideas; effective communication needs to be a two-way event. To ensure a strong safety culture, an organisation must listen to its staff, and create the channels for effective two-way communication. Safety requires the input of all workers, and a safety culture must explicitly embrace and include all members of the organisation.

The Role of Safety Management Systems

Safety Management Systems are, deservedly, increasing in popularity, as organisations recognize that safety in the workplace is not only a compliance issue, but also a matter of effective risk management.

When married with positive safety-based values, effective communication and progressive actions, an SMS is an essential safety tool, fundamental for measuring safety, and assessing the organisation’s improvement. It enables staff members to quickly and easily communicate policies and actions, and to implement and achieve safety goals. Moreover, a broad system will highlight safety hazards and risks, facilitating preventative measures, and supporting risk management.

In addition, the implementation of an SMS is a concrete means for an organisation to demonstrate both its investment in, and commitment to, a positive, strong safety culture.

Merchant Ship Safety

Any retailer understands that customers now expect choice. In order to compete on the global market, it is important to provide customers with what they want. Without imports, the range of goods on offer would be significantly reduced, so we have become reliant on the ability to transport huge volumes of goods around the world.

As the global population has grown, so has the demand for goods. As the most viable means of cargo transportation, 80% of the products we buy and sell are shipped by boat. In response to the need to ship ever greater loads, advances in technology have enabled the development of unbelievably large vessels. These mega container ships have the capacity to carry over 10,000 containers, yet they can still float.

Merchant shipping fleets have also had to expand, so at any one time there are in excess of 50,000 merchant ships voyaging across the world’s oceans.

This is great news for consumers who want to stock up in the supermarkets, invest in a new car, buy the latest gadget or update their wardrobe. It does, however, impact on the safety of vessels, both in the open seas and in busy ports.

Port Provisions

It is one thing to design and build a mega-sized container ship, but in order for it to operate, it is essential that shipping channels and port provisions can cope with vessels of such a grand scale.

In recent decades many of the world’s largest ports have had to invest in expansion plans in order that the new merchant ships, which can be over 390 meters in length, can reach the port and manoeuvre safely. The cranes, logistics and on-going infrastructure also need to be in place to successfully load and unload the ships.

When at the helm of such an imposing vessel, it takes time for the ship to respond to the controls. External factors such as strong winds or the movement of other vessels impact on how the ship moves. The captain and port controllers have to factor all of this in when bringing a ship into or out of port.

It is now a regular occurrence for large vessels to be passing along narrow shipping lanes in order to dock. This is a high-risk situation, where everyone involved has to be fully engaged in order to prevent a safety disaster.

In addition to providing a safe passage for ships, port employees also need to ensure that every vessel is compliant with marine regulations. This includes onboard checks of equipment, crew conditions, medical supplies for ships and the safe handling of hazardous goods.

Meanwhile, the on-board officers may need to take responsibility for balancing the load, crew safety, navigation, security and medical care in addition to their main duty.

Modern vessels benefit from internal alarms to warn of any onboard issues, along with radar and advanced communication systems. Despite this, there is still a need for paper charts, binoculars and other traditional maritime resources.

Dover Strait

As an island nation, the UK is reliant on shipping to transport goods. Felixstowe, Grimsby & Immingham and the Port of London are amongst the largest trade ports and provide a link with mainland Europe. It is therefore little wonder that the Dover Strait is one of the busiest shipping channels in the world.

Around 400 shipping vessels pass through the Dover Strait every day, along with ferries, fishing vessels, leisure cruisers, scientific research boats and the occasional cross-channel swimmer. In such a congested stretch of water, it takes little imagination to work out the logistics involved in keeping everyone safe. Yet for many crews, this is just the start or end of an epic journey around the world.

The 8 0′ Clock English News

Ever since the idea of the free market was implanted on the Indian Economy way back in 1990, everything has changed. From the era watching of English News at 8:00 PM and Regional News at 8:30 PM on Doordarshan to the era of not knowing where and when to watch the News shows the evolution of Private Television. With so many channels Jammed in the air there are very few choices for a viewer to keenly observe. The minute one starts surfing a News channel that shows a building on fire or under siege, one just feels like swapping or viewing another news channel. With So many expert readers, so many anchors and field journalists telling out the same stories or different stories the has shifted to watching news channels and not the actual news itself. News also comes with web based technology and also has subscription to RSS feeds on your desktops and mobile phones.

The News channels are concerned about the advertisement revenue and build up so much.

Some channels build only hysteria and report useless things also bring into the public domain issues which are sensitive for National defence or safety. Some programs also have the potential to disturb the psyche of the individual.

So far so good, but there is in fact no hope for the future, with so much advancement rather than feeling happy about getting such services, I am prone to feeling suffocated at the sheer quantity of the same items that we see on TV these days.