7 Tips to Driving a Strong Safety Culture
A USA Today article reported that Tesla’s worker injury rate was 31% higher than the industry average in 2015. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has pledged to change this, and in an email to his employees, he stated that he will personally carry out the job of an injured employee to assess the dangers first-hand. He also now wants every injury to be reported straight to him.
Musk is clearly on the right track. In my experience in a safety-sensitive industry, we are at a higher risk of safety failures during periods of high growth – as we’re adding new people to our team – and innovation. Tesla is experiencing both.
For Musk to personally engage is the right step. Safety must be leader driven and employee owned. Just as Musk has charted new waters in the automobile industry, he can do the same for building a safety culture. When it comes to driving a safety culture in your organization, here are some tips:
1. A great safety culture is a journey. It is not a destination. You will never achieve total safety. The benefit to the organization is achieved in the journey itself.
2. Safety must be a core value of the company. Priorities change; values do not. Safety should never be considered a priority – it must be a non-negotiable core value.
3. Zero is the only acceptable goal. Although 99.9% is a pretty good performance standard in most business arenas, it’s not when it comes to safety.
4. There must be organizational accountability for safety failures. Blaming individuals at the front line without examination of organizational issues serves no purpose.
5. Safety goes beyond compliance. Regulations, rules, and laws are baseline. Great safety requires individual commitment and personal accountability.
6. Leaders should focus on execution, pay attention to detail, and not overcomplicate matters. Execute the basics, and the battle is nearly won.
7. The focus is on at-risk behaviors, not conditions. Addressing behavior and not focusing exclusively on deficiencies in equipment of conditions, can prevent the majority of casualties.
Remember, a strong safety culture is leadership-driven and employee owned. Musk is setting the right tone to address the safety issues at Tesla. We can do the same at our companies, and it starts with leadership.