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SLC 2020 Q&A: How a Stronger Safety Culture Can Increase Compliance

Oct. 30, 2020
Safety managers must rethink their approach to get buy in from executives and frontline workers.
There can be a tendency for business executives to view safety as a cost center. Instead, they should be looking at it as a profit center, says Lance Murray, construction safety manager at mark Young Construction. Murray says safety managers should learn to use traditional business reporting metrics to show the return on investment for building a safe work culture.

Murray says his session at the 2020 Safety Leadership Conference, which takes place Nov. 10-12 virtually, includes ideas on how to improve safety that can be readily implemented in any industry.

Murray previews his session, “Culture and Compliance: How a Stronger Safety Culture Can Increase Compliance,” in a Q&A with EHS Today.

EHS Today: Can you offer us a short description of your presentation and describe how it relates to safety leadership?

Murray: This presentation will cover topics that include the business side of safety leadership [such as] defining safety culture, building relationships and communications, leading versus lagging indicators and KPIs. A strong safety culture, steeped in leading indicators, can pull compliance and lagging indicators into the positive territory.

This presentation is based in a construction environment. However, it is relatable in most any industry, including public entities and risk management. While this is not a technical presentation, the value is gained from real-world examples of things that can be readily implemented in most organizations and will spur new thoughts and ideas that may be initiated with your own employer or client.

Why is the topic of your presentation of interest to you and why is it important to SLC attendees?

When I first started out in my safety career as a safety compliance officer over 30 years ago, I was frustrated with the idea that I had all this responsibility and very little authority. I was disillusioned with the idea that safety was all about compliance with regulations and policy. I did not understand why workers would not be compliant with the rules and why no matter what I asked, told or demanded of them. Noncompliance was common. Safety professionals need to have relational skills and build trust and respect if a safety culture is going to succeed, grow and thrive.

What are the takeaways you hope to leave with attendees?

This presentation will challenge attendees with the widely accepted concept of “Safety First” by incorporating the business side of safety leadership, building relationships and communication skills, KPIs, and leading and lagging indicators. By building and integrating safety into all aspects of the project, safety is no longer in competition with every other aspect of the project and should never be observed on a numerical scale.

Please share an example of a personal or professional experience you’ve had related to safety leadership or the topic of your presentation.

I went to work for an organization four years ago that wanted to do the right thing for the right reasons. Leadership understood the relationship between being a successful/profitable general contractor, site safety, and genuinely cared about their employees but struggled with recordable injuries and citations that prevented them from bidding key projects.

By developing relationships at all levels of the organization and integrating safety into all aspects of the project, a culture of safety was seeded into the organization that continues to grow and thrive to this day. Four years later, we are bidding projects and being awarded contracts on multimillion-dollar projects that were lost in the past to poor safety metrics. Last year, [we were] recognized by EHS Today as one of America's Safest Companies.

What do you think are some of the most pressing EHS and risk management issues facing corporate leaders and safety professionals in 2020 and beyond?

I think too many in the C-suite look at the safety function within an organization as a cost center instead of a profit center. In turn, safety professionals need to develop relationships and communication skills with all leadership to promote and establish the benefits of a strong safety culture within the organization.

 Editor’s Note: For more information on the 2020 Safety Leadership Conference, including registration, click here.

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