50638959 © Cherriesjd | Dreamstime
6674a4d251e91eeb3de19b7c Dreamstime L 50638959

SLC 2024 Preview: The 4 Keys to a World-Class Safety Culture

June 26, 2024
A safety program isn’t built in a day, a week or even a single year. Learn how to develop a robust and sustainable safety culture from one of America’s Safest Companies.

An effective safety program is not just nice to have. It is a must-have in today’s market. Leading companies will tell you that their safety programs are a competitive advantage and their better-than-average injury records have helped them land project bids, recruit new hires and retain workers.

Dave Stauffer, CSP, ARM, knows this firsthand. He has seen the direct and indirect effects of a safe workplace as the vice president of EHS technical services at SBM Management LP, the first janitorial company ever to receive OSHA’s VPP status and a two-time recipient of America’s Safest Companies (in 2014 and 2021).

Stauffer will share lessons learned from his 30 years of experience about how to develop an effective safety program, gain buy-in from managers and frontline workers, and how to build a safety culture at the 2024 Safety Leadership Conference that’s taking place Aug. 26-28 in the greater Denver area. More information, including registration, can be found here. Below is a preview of what to expect from Stauffer’s presentation.

Your presentation is about the four keys to a safety culture (Compliance, Training, Employee Empowerment and Leadership). Can you explain the role or importance of each of those keys?

The simplest way to explain is “Do as I do, not as I say.” If you do not roll up your sleeves and actively lead others, how do you expect anyone will follow you?

What Felt Leaders do. They listen, they demonstrate personal commitment, they act, and they take ownership

Why Felt Leadership is Important. It improves overall business performance while protecting the lives of employees, it reduces turnover rates while maintaining the retention of valued team members, and it creates a strong work culture.

Achieving Safety Excellence. Felt leaders build strong relationships with their team in order to connect and lead effectively. This shared mindset drives continuous improvement and a stronger safety culture.

What can a safety culture do for a workplace?

When it is a positive safety culture, employees have shared values that influence prevention and management of safety risks. Safety is defined as a value; everyone is accountable for following safety procedures, identifying risks and reporting hazards. If an incident does occur, there is a detailed investigation, root cause(s) are identified and effective corrective actions are applied.

When it is a negative safety culture, employees fail to adhere to safety policies and procedures. There’s also a lack of cooperation, control and communication. Risks are not identified, incidents are rarely reported and no proactive steps are taken to prevent future incidents.

What can't a safety culture do for a workplace?

Having a strong safety culture can do a lot, but it definitely has its limitations. Here are a few things that a safety culture can’t do:

  • A safety culture cannot eliminate risks. It may reduce risks, but some inherent hazards may persist despite preventive measures.
  • A safety culture cannot guarantee 100% compliance. While a strong safety culture promotes compliance, it cannot guarantee that every employee will always follow safety protocols.
  • A safety culture cannot replace proper training and equipment. A safety culture encourages safe practices, but it cannot replace proper training and the use of appropriate safety equipment. Employees still need training to handle specific tasks safely.

What was SBM Management's journey to developing a safety system like? How long did it take?

Years and years. To be honest, it is still evolving as we venture into new opportunities as a company.

There are, however, benchmarks in the process of developing a strong safety system. One benchmark was when we reached a company recordable rate of under 1.50 in 2015. We soon realized the hard work had just begun. It was not a number that showed how safe we were as a company but a safety system that was defined, had a process, was understood and, most importantly, abided by all employees. We continue to make improvements and know that the journey continues on.

Change can be scary. How did SBM Management try to make workers feel more comfortable about the changes it underwent on its safety journey?

Good communication and strong leadership from the top down is critical. For SBM, it was less of an option and more of a way of life.

Executive leadership allowed us to make the necessary changes to meet the goals. We were given autonomy but had to be accountable as we implemented change. As we started to see the results, we gained buy-in. That helped us develop a stronger safety culture.

What's something that you didn't expect or were surprised by during your safety journey?

I was surprised by the buy-in that came with the changes and the true commitment that we received from operations. Embracing a safety culture is hard work.

Achieving zero injuries is a significant culture shift. It requires support from leadership and the involvement of all employees, but when it was demonstrated that the change created more business opportunities, greater results and increased productivity while decreasing operating costs, it’s hard not to see that these are all winning propositions.

About the Author

Nicole Stempak

Nicole Stempak is managing editor of EHS Today and conference content manager of the Safety Leadership Conference.

Sponsored Recommendations

10 Facts About the State of Workplace Safety in the U.S.

July 12, 2024
Workplace safety in the U.S. has improved over the past 50 years, but progress has recently stalled. This report from the AFL-CIO highlights key challenges.

Free Webinar: ISO 45001 – A Commitment to Occupational Health, Safety & Personal Wellness

May 30, 2024
Secure a safer and more productive workplace using proven Management Systems ISO 45001 and ISO 45003.

ISO 45003 – Psychological Health and Safety at Work

May 30, 2024
ISO 45003 offers a comprehensive framework to expand your existing occupational health and safety program, helping you mitigate psychosocial risks and promote overall employee...

Case Study: Improve TRIR from 4+ to 1 with EHS Solution and Safety Training

May 29, 2024
Safety training and EHS solutions improve TRIR for Complete Mechanical Services, leading to increased business. Moving incidents, training, and other EHS procedures into the digital...

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of EHS Today, create an account today!