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Building a Culture of Safety in Manufacturing: What You Need to Know

While manufacturing has gone through its share of change, it continues to be a major contributor to the global economy and is expected, like other industries, to struggle with finding people to fill an estimated 2.4 million positions through 2028. With that kind of competition for talent, companies in the manufacturing sector will need to position themselves as employers-of-choice in order to attract and maintain skilled employees.

One point that manufacturers can differentiate themselves on is safety in the workplace. When employees feel safe at work and know their leaders genuinely care about their safety, it has a positive impact on their commitment to the organization and engagement with their role. When employees are engaged at work, it further reinforces a culture of safety, since higher employee engagement has been shown to reduce safety-related incidents by 70 percent. 

If your organization has identified an opportunity to improve by creating a culture of safety, here are a few things to consider before getting started.

1. Achieving Executive Alignment Up Front Pays Off Later

Organizations are more likely to win when their executive teams are aligned on their strategic priorities. Racing into a safety initiative without getting executive buy-in could slow the initiative down, or worse, cause it to fail. In order to successfully implement a culture transformation, you must begin by tying the initiative to the organizational purpose. Carefully build the case for adopting safety as a core company value, showing how it will contribute to the company’s workforce – and its bottom line – and before long you will have the support you need to generate the collective momentum to move the initiative forward.

Learn how to attract and retain top talent in the manufacturing industry with  this guide.

2. Building Conviction for Safety is Key

Creating a culture of safety goes well beyond simple compliance with safety standards. To drive a personal commitment to safety at the individual level, manufacturers must build conviction in employees that upholding a safety culture is both desirable and achievable.

Building conviction is an ongoing process. It must be built into manufacturing safety programs, discussed and celebrated during team meetings, and revisited in one-on-one meetings. This ensures that your employees feel supported and motivated to learn new skills and apply them on the job. Only when everyone owns safety as a personal accountability will you achieve a true culture of safety.

3. Training That Uses Experiential Learning Engages Manufacturing Employees

The training component of manufacturing safety programs is an indispensable tool for helping leaders and employees recognize and embrace their respective responsibilities for creating a safe workplace. However, many safety training programs fail to achieve this because they focus on the rules and regulations, and do not address how to create that conviction to adopt a new way of operating.  

If you are to build a culture of safety and ensure the success of your culture transformation, consider employing experiential learning, otherwise known as “learning by doing.” This methodology does an exceptional job of building conviction as it engages participants by using highly interactive activities that are relevant to the safety challenges employees face at work every day. This allows them to see firsthand how their personal choices and behaviors create a culture of safety for themselves and their colleagues.

3. Involving Leaders in Training Maximizes Its Impact

Organizational leaders establish the priorities and values in an organization, and they have the authority to enforce safety requirements. More importantly, front line managers, supervisors, and lead hands can improve the chances of a culture transformation taking root because they have an immediate impact on the attitudes, behaviors, and decisions of their teams – not to mention an in-depth understanding of what they are asking of employees and what those changes mean for them.

Leaders must be equipped with the skills necessary to model safe behaviors, coach their teams on these behaviors, and require their teams to uphold safety as a value every day. It is only when leaders embrace and require safety as a value that employees know they will always have the organization’s support to make the safe choice instead of cutting corners.

Conclusion

Creating a culture of safety requires the involvement and active participation of everyone in an organization, from those at the very top to those on the frontline. When done right, manufacturing safety programs will have a greater impact on the bottomline and the employee experience in manufacturing will flourish.

Download Guide: Manufacturing and the Employee Experience

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Since 1991, John has acquired extensive experience in the design and delivery of a diverse portfolio of programs. In addition to his executive responsibilities as President of Leadership and Learning Events, John is considered a valued partner to many executive teams. His insight and experience enable him to effectively diagnose, design, and implement complex culture change initiatives in a collaborative and engaging manner. Moreover, John’s experience in global implementations allows him to draw from a deep well of history to create unique and customized solutions. John’s passion for developing people makes him a sought after speaker, partner and coach and is evident in the high praise he receives from clients.

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Founded in 1988, Eagle's Flight has earned its reputation as a global leader in the development and delivery of business-relevant, experiential learning programs that achieve specific training objectives and lasting behavior changes.

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