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3 Ways Safety Leaders Succeed in Fostering a Safe Workplace

April 18, 2018

safety leaders foster safe workplace

Many organizations and safety leaders expend significant time and money putting together safety programs and training to foster a safer culture. Unfortunately, these programs often fail, resulting in significant injuries, inefficiencies, and costs to the organization. One of the reasons for these failures is that these traditional approaches cannot account for an important factor – the unique psychological differences between individuals when it comes to safety.

SafetyDNA® is made up of personality traits, values, abilities, and beliefs that all predict likelihood of injury, and each person has different levels and combinations of these characteristics. As a result, everyone has a unique SafetyDNA profile, making them more or less susceptible than others to the risks around them. Understanding your team's unique safety tendencies gives you the framework to think about how it can help you keep others safe. Here are three ways this understanding helps safety leaders foster a safe workplace:

They understand the WHY

To be safer in the workplace it is essential to consider behaviors. Because we can see and measure behavior, we can provide specific feedback to employees so that they can change at-risk behaviors or encourage safe behaviors to reduce their risk on the job. But behavior alone simply tells us WHAT someone does; it does not necessarily tell us WHY someone does something. To truly change one's behavior, we have to get to the root cause and find out why some individuals often respond very differently than others despite being in the same situation and environment.

Safety policies, workplace culture, training, equipment, and other factors play a large part in driving safety outcomes. That helps us understand part of why unsafe behaviors happen. But there's another piece of the puzzle: the individual person. Different people in the same situation may react very differently depending on their SafetyDNA.

One employee may not feel inclined to make sure he or she has three points of contact while climbing a ladder, his or her co-worker may not even consider taking a few steps up a ladder unless all safety measures are followed. What one considers to be safe, another might consider dangerous.

They customize safety for each individual

Everyone is not equally and inherently safe. But, traditional safety programs and training efforts are based on that assumption. They assume that if you just give everyone the same great training program and provide a safe work environment, you can equally reduce everyone’s exposure across the board. Unfortunately, that’s not how people are designed.

Read More: Why Are Some Leaders Inherently Safer Than Others?

Everyone has a unique SafetyDNA profile, and different profiles result in different exposures to risks. While two employees might be doing the exact same job under the same working conditions, one may act impulsively or rush through a job, ignoring safety procedures, while the co-worker next to him or her cautiously completes their tasks following all safety procedures, even if he or she has the same level of experience and is in the same condition. This is a result of their own personal SafetyDNA. So, when creating a safety management system, you should use an approach that takes into account the unique characteristics of each person. This ultimately increases behavioral change and impact by making safety much more personal.

They understand one's SafetyDNA is there to stay

Now more than ever, as automation takes over and AI moves in, equipment is constantly being updated, jobs and customers change, and processes are adapted. A lot can change over the course of time or even within a day, but longitudinal research studies show that employees' SafetyDNA profiles will change very little over the course of their adult lives. It helps define who one is and it influences how one behaves, regardless of time or place. That is because SafetyDNA is made up of things like core personality traits, abilities, and values, which do not change much during over the span of one's life. 

So, if one of your employees' SafetyDNA puts him/her more at risk when he/she is stressed out on the job due to being low in control, his/her exposure to risk will significantly increase anytime a stressful situation arises, regardless of the task at hand. Those are risk factors he or she will always need to be aware of in order to ensure personal safety in the future. As a safety leader, it's important to understand employees' SafetyDNA profiles, too, to help foster a safer workplace. Once you know what puts you and your team at risk the most, everyone can be more proactive about personal exposure, which will help keep employees safe, regardless of where, when, or what they're doing.

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Esteban Tristan, Ph.D. Esteban Tristan, Ph.D. is the Director of Safety Solutions at PSI. He manages the development and implementation of all safety solutions and services, which address some of the critical challenges faced by organizations today in workplace safety.