How to Guide Your Employees to a Safer Culture

Safety is important, but what if my employees use the guise of safety to get out of doing their jobs?  This was a topic for discussion at a recent visit I paid to a local manufacturing facility.  We were talking about safety training for employees and the open communication found in a strong safety culture.  The answer is:  train them.  I, wholeheartedly, believe that open communication is the only way to promote a safe culture and that employees, absolutely, have the right to refuse performing unsafe tasks.  But, what if the task itself brings an inherent danger?


I grew up in manufacturing.  Assembly lines, machine shops and welding booths are very familiar to me.  In my years as a consultant, I became familiar with many more varieties of manufacture.  I visited and trained workers in injection-mold plastics, sand cast foundries, carbon fiber and steel stamping and welding facilities.  I even spent three days working with a florist (Yes, putting together an arrangement of flowers is manufacturing).  Some of these sites were more dangerous than others just by the nature of their production.

People do dangerous work every day.  There is nothing considered safe about a construction worker placing steel beams 30 feet above ground.  There is nothing considered safe about a worker on a pour deck with a ladle of molten aluminum in hand.  There is nothing considered safe about a patrol officer making a traffic stop on the side of an interstate highway.  These are all jobs that get done each and every day.  We make every effort to make them safe through engineering controls, administrative controls and personal protective equipment.  It is the responsibility of the workers, and those around them to obey the rules of the job.

The point of a safety program is not to teach workers that falls, molten metal and spinning saw blades are dangerous (Common sense should teach this).  The point is to teach them procedures and give them the proper equipment to do the job right.  The point is to teach them their responsibilities for their personal safety and the safety of those around them.  The right of the worker is not to forgo the job because it includes dangerous elements, the right of the worker is to forgo the job if they do not have proper training, proper procedure or proper equipment.

But, what if my employees use the guise of safety to try and get out of work?  Train them.

  1. Follow safe work procedures.  If something doesn’t make sense, it is your responsibility to question.
  2. Avoid obvious unsafe activity.  Horseplay can lead to an accident.  Don’t run, don’t toss tools, don’t wrestle.
  3. Keep the work area clean and free of clutter. Keep aisles and stairways clear.  Dispose of empty boxes.  Clean up spills.  Eliminate items or conditions that could create a hazard.
  4. Report accidents, injuries, illnesses, and near-misses immediately.  Immediate response and investigation will lead to root cause analysis and prevention of the condition being repeated.  Find a problem.  Fix a problem.  Keep a problem from coming back.
  5. Follow company safety rules.  They combine government laws and regulations with the experience of many people in your company and your industry.
  6. Look for ways to make the job safer. Do your part to improve safety by voicing your observations and making suggestions.
  7. Treat safety as your most important job responsibility.  Your job includes specific tasks with required results, but you must perform the tasks safely.

Can you think of other safety related points that employees must know and understand?



  1. Safety Chief,

    You bring an excellent perspective to a common cop out both my management and team members. I have been on both sides and you are correct, if true change in culture is going to happen- open candid conversations must take place.
    thanks for the great info: this site is becoming a valuable & refreshing resource

    • Thank you for your comments, Jeremy.

      Management needs to start the conversation. Once the work force gets comfortable, they will initiate conversations. Just train them toward the right types of conversations.

      If you like the blog, you may also be interested in following me on Twitter: @TheSafetyChief.

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