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To build a house, you begin with the foundation. The walls and tresses depend upon its stability to support the structure. If you take short cuts or smooth over the weak spots, your finished product is compromises – sometimes so severely that the structure becomes a home “tear down”. As the result, there is lost revenue and unnecessary spending.

To build a sustainable safety system, you being with commitment. Following right behind is the analysis. Looking in all the corners to discover what you didn’t know, what you knew but couldn’t fix, what you knew and fixed wrong, and the most important, what is and isn’t working. With all the pieces on the table – egos pushed aside – you need to sift through the data and begin the strategic planning process.

Knowing how to set the table (element processes, communication strategy, change management support, etc.) and who to seat at the system element tables (leadership, field and office personnel, union, etc.) is a foundational step. Selection is a skill and should be made without bias. There is no “good ole boys club” or “girl power” in safety culture change – a team approach is the most effective way to achieve results.

Two consistent mistakes company leaders make are failing to gain commitment from leaders and having a poorly developed change management plan. Change is not a welcome event to most individuals so, having a solid commitment and change plan will make all the difference. Working through a series of safety system elements, there will be a tremendous amount of change.

Successful companies know that employees will be resistance and have a plan to counteract the negative impact and enhance the positive aspects of having a healthy workforce and get them home at night. Needless to say, having a well-set table only aids in the ratio of success. Let’s take a closer look at the two consistent challenges.

Leadership Commitment – during my safety leadership seminars, I’m often amazed by how little influence leaders feel they have with their employees. I’m equally disappointed to hear employees say that their safety culture is forced or that the company is just “checking compliance off of their list”. Employees are a company’s biggest assets. Leaders are employees first. So, it only makes sense to show leaders what it looks like to lead by example, provide tools and set reasonable safety expectations. Without visible and genuine leadership commitment, there is no sustainability.

Change Management – I often see companies jump head first into the system elements before they realize there is a sequence to building a sustainable safety system. Just like the foundation of a house, there needs to be a well-calculated communication plan. Employees want to know how this change will affect them – what’s in it for me!? Once committed, if leaders don’t establish trust by establishing a personal connection, communicate the pros and cons up front, and create a beneficial vision of what a safe and healthy workplace looks like, they will only create a “compliance” program – rather than a workforce of competent safety leaders (yes, in a successful system, everyone is a safety leader).

So, once you set the table, get the right team seated at the table, gain commitment and develop the change management plan, the strategic planning begins. Make the time to develop a Sustainable Safety System because it’s the right thing to do – this stuff is too important to get wrong.


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