Your brand is known worldwide for cleanliness, consistent high quality food, and a welcoming environment.  Customers know what to expect when they walk in, and as a result, you are a model and leading company in your segment.  All of these items have been successfully implemented as a part of the culture.  Extending the culture to include safety will reap similar benefits.  Employees know what is expected of them, and how to act.  They will know the proper safety procedures for that will aid in the prevention and reduction of accidental injuries in the workplace.  Establishing a safety culture requires effort on each employee. The end result is managers and supervisors will ultimately have to work less enforcing safety policies while controlling the number and costs of workplace injuries.

How does a company establish a safety culture?

  1. A strong orientation program is a must.  Explaining not just how a proper procedure is done, but why, is important.  A second factor is having the employee perform the task to ensure proper understanding , with additional follow up at a later time.  Follow up is important for  management to confirm employee understanding of safe task performance.  Also, management should lead by example to send the proper message.
  2. On-going safety training to reinforce the safety message.  Employees can become complacent over time, and may ignore or forget the proper procedure.  On-going safety training will ensure that  employees are reminded of the proper way to perform a task, and also educate the employees when changes are made.  Be sure to take safety meetings seriously – if you do not take the safety meetings seriously, neither will the employees.
  3. Train all levels of the staff that people and their well being are valued.  The focus is on protecting the employees of the organization which will contribute to long term success of the organization.
  4. All personnel, including senior management, must demonstrate their commitment to safety by following all safety processes and procedures.  Wearing slip resistant shoes, using the proper personal protective equipment, lifting correctly – these procedures are in place for everyone, not just line employees.

Safety culture can take a step backward when the following occurs:

  1. Communication is not open at all levels.  Employees should feel comfortable communicating openly with upper management.
  2. Production demands are placed above safety.  During peak times, employees may not wear proper personal protective equipment, may run in production areas, carry two heavy boxes instead of one, etc.
  3. Some employees may not perform a procedure correctly, and are not corrected by managers.  In this case, other employees will see this and assign a level of importance to a task or procedure.

Employees will ultimately learn what is expected of them, regardless of what management says is expected of them.  If programs and policies are enforced consistently, employees will not consider violating safety rules.  Also, when new employees are brought on board, they will learn acceptable work behaviors by observing their co-workers.  If existing employees are performing in a consistent, safe manner, the new employee will emulate this attitude which will contribute to the success of the safety culture.  If existing employees take short cuts and ignore safety policies/procedures, the new employee will likely emulate this behavior.  This will have a negative impact on the safety culture for the restaurant.

A company with a strong safety culture typically experiences fewer at-risk behaviors. As a result, they also experience lower accident rates, lower turn-over, lower absenteeism, and higher productivity. These companies are also extremely successful by excelling in all aspects of their business.

Creating a safety culture takes time. It is frequently a multi-year process. A series of continuous process improvement steps can be followed to create a safety culture. Employer and employee commitment are hallmarks of a true safety culture where safety is an integral part of daily operations.  Starting the process today will pay off with reduced employee injuries, and a smoother operation tomorrow.  Let’s get started!