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How to Create a Culture of Safety That Will Reduce Your Risk

While nearly every employer may agree that workplace safety is one of their top priorities, the fast pace of daily operation means it can sometimes fall by the wayside. However, when it comes to improving the bottom line, there are few better investments than developing a safety program. In fact, according to studies from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), for every $1 invested in an effective safety program, $4 to $6 may be saved as illnesses, injuries, and fatalities decline. And, with an estimated $1 billion dollars spent each week on workers’ compensation – not including the cost of overtime, turnover, and other losses in productivity – it’s easy to see why creating a culture of safety is seen as having an incredible return on investment.

So, for a business that’s looking to develop a culture that values safety, where does it start?

A safety culture must do three things:


1. Emphasize safety as an integral part of the company mission.

2. Require accountability at all levels of the organization.

3. Be always striving for continued and marked improvement.

Meeting this criteria doesn’t happen on its own. It requires accountability and involvement from everyone – management and employees alike. Everyone must value a safe work environment, and they must share the same vision of managing risk in the workplace. If this is done properly, coworkers look out for one another, unsafe conditions/practices are identified and improved, and your business experiences far fewer accidents.

Developing a Safety Committee

A good place to start implementing a safety culture would be with a safety committee, whose sole purpose is to set goals and the plans to achieve them. The committee would be responsible for evaluating risk-reduction efforts, reviewing and updating rules as needed, and investigating accidents and “near misses.” The committee should be well-rounded with representatives from different areas of the business and include at least one senior manager.

The safety committee also promotes its policies to the company. This can be done in a number of ways, such as contests, award programs, and safety awareness days. These methods can improve engagement with the safety program, increasing its chances of success.

Incentivizing Safety

Another excellent way to foster a safety culture is through incentives. Great incentives focus on recognition, not just reward. Encourage and acknowledge employees who live up to the organization’s established values. And, don’t be afraid to set expectations too high. An incentive is meant to encourage going above and beyond normal duties to improve workplace safety.

Developing an easy-to-understand program that recognizes groups meeting the company’s safety goals may increase the speed and effectiveness of adoption. By laying out straightforward guidelines with clear, meaningful incentives, employees know exactly what they need to do to achieve them.




  • Value recognition over reward
  • Remain consistent
  • Commit to the investment
  • Involve employees in the process
  • Set high expectations
  • Reward everyone often


  • Focus on the reward
  • Focus on injury reports
  • Make it complicated
  • Expect the program to run itself
  • Use negative peer pressure



Leading by Example

Company leaders bear an enormous amount of responsibility in creating a safe workplace. They must constantly communicate and enforce policies that are set in place. But most importantly, they have to embody the values of safety. Employees take notice of when their supervisors lead by example – and when they don’t. When a leader shows they don’t care about safety, they can discourage those they oversee.

Other traits leaders should show is knowing when to discipline and when to instruct, as well as showing openness to suggestion from employees on how to improve safety. Employees can become quite creative in coming up with solutions to workplace hazards when the culture promotes it. A strong leader will also know how to turn an accident into a learning experience that their employees can grow from.

Risk will always exist, and it is impossible for a business, especially a small business, to completely remove it. But, by following these steps in creating a culture of safety, you can greatly reduce the threat of an accident while improving employee morale at the same time. Make safety a priority in your organization today!


David A. Harnois, CCM, CPL, is a proud employee owner of VGM Insurance Services, specializing in commercial and group program business. David provides insurance solutions for clubs through his VGM Club endorsed program.  David can be reached at (319) 800-6676;



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