Leadership Perspectives Blog

Why Safety Culture is More Important than Productivity

When the new CEO of Alcoa Aluminum, Paul O’Neill, met the board and major investors for the first time, he didn’t mention profits, productivity, distribution or competition.

Instead, he delivered a shocking message: "if you want to understand how Alcoa is doing, you need to look at our workplace safety figures."

O’Neill understood the role that safety can play in establishing an organization’s values. The one common thread that runs through every workforce is the desire to be safe; to not suffer an injury.

By stressing that safety is the most important value in the company, O’Neill laid the framework for what he called a “Habit of Excellence.” When the company rallied around safety as their priority, the habit of excellence followed suit in all other areas.

The commitment to safety from any workforce starts with a commitment from the management team that goes beyond the basics of being OSHA compliant and hazard-free.

It requires an investment of money and of time. It means that productivity temporarily will be impacted when a worker is hurt, because treatment, follow up, investigation of cause and job analysis will all be involved, every time.

But the stronger the commitment, and the more consistent the follow through, the fewer times injuries will occur, leading to greater productivity. A workforce that is dedicated to the habit of excellence in safety is dedicated to performing their jobs the right way.

When an organization makes safety their core value, greater productivity will follow.

About the author: Joe Stevens founded Bridge Safety Consultants in 2003 to provide companies and organizations with a resource to help them strengthen their safety culture. The company conducts a safety culture audit, then designs and manages safety recognition and rewards program, with bilingual monthly safety meetings. Stevens can be contacted at: [email protected]. To see a typical meeting in action, visit the Bridge Safety Consultants Web site.

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