Walk the Talk
Some employers put safety first, but many others only claim to
By Ryan Griffioen, Representative
As a rep, I applaud the employer that commits to safety as “job number-one”—and puts their money where their mouth is—by implementing safe work practices, providing safety training, and reinforcing a safety culture through strict enforcement. This employer hires a well-trained safety officer and front-line supervisors who hold to the same safety values, and provides positive reinforcement by rewarding employees who work safely. There is no question in the workplace that safety is the top priority, and it becomes part of the company culture.
I absolutely despise the employer who claims that safety is “job number-one,” but does nothing to support that claim. This employer says all the right things when the right people are listening, but then does everything possible to delay, defer, or even derail efforts to implement a safety culture. They have many excuses:
- “We can’t compete if we have to follow every rule,”
- “Our competitors aren’t working safely,”
- “I never needed to wear [a certain item of protective equipment] and I’m still alive and kicking,” or
- “Back in the day, we didn’t have to worry about all this safety stuff.”
This employer’s safety officer is scared to develop safe work practices because there is no one higher up willing to support them. Frontline supervisors default to prioritizing getting the job done on time and on budget instead of focusing on ensuring workers go home safe at the end of the day. The mixed messaging shows that safety isn’t a priority, so safety doesn’t become part of the culture.
All too often, the drive for safety comes as a result of a tragedy within a workplace or a closely connected community. The searing pain of loss is a strong catalyst for change. But why does it have to hit so close to home before someone takes safety seriously? The statistics are staggering—almost 1,000 workers lose their lives every year to workplace accidents and illnesses. Another 250,000 suffer lost-time injuries. The stories are horrific—from workers being crushed by equipment to those who slowly waste away due to years of chemical exposure. When is the old school mentality and the notion that “it won’t happen to me” going to become extinct?