For the manufacturing industry, safety is of primary importance. In order to create world class safety performance, business leaders should understand the following five things.

1. Safety should be a primary priority 

Some version of “Everyone going home uninjured at the end of the day” has to be the conversational drumbeat of the safety program throughout all levels of the organization. Safety is about people, not compliance, not costs. Compliance and lower costs are outcomes of having a workforce that understands, believes in and is engaged in helping your company be successful in why you do safety. Make it personal.

2. Compliance does not create low injury rates 

Compliance with the OSHA standards is the required starting point of a safety program, not the goal or destination of the program. Compliance is not going to get your company to world class performance levels. What you do beyond the compliance baseline will determine how successful your company will be. Having taught Safety Management Systems at the OSHA Training Institute for more than five years, I always asked compliance officers in my class, “What percentage of the injuries you see on a company’s injury log are the result of a missing or poorly performing OSHA required program?” Their typical response? 10 to 20 percent.

3. Learn to make the right decisions 

Teaching employees to make the right “in the heat of the moment” decisions is critical to being successful. It is leadership’s job to set the table for making the right decision not only easy, but expected, regardless of the level of stress at the moment. Leaders must demonstrate to their people that they value how a job was done as much as what was done. If you only reward the “what”, then “how” becomes less important and people eventually end up getting hurt. In the 25 years I’ve worked as a safety professional, I’ve never seen a better program than SafeStart to engage a workforce in a company’s safety process and help employees improve their in-the-moment safety decisions and battle complacency at work, at home and on the road.

4. Accountability is key

A leader cannot be everywhere at once, and if your safety program is firing on all cylinders, they don’t need to be. If the message your people are consistently hearing is, “we are all in this together, so let’s plan the task out together, so we all go home uninjured at the end of the day” then people become willing to help their teammate and hold their teammate accountable just like the leader would. That requires people to become comfortable with giving and receiving feedback in the workplace and when received, acting on it. That doesn’t come naturally so observation programs are a great teaching tool for creating that environment.

5. Learning from mistakes

There is nothing more compelling than sitting in an ER with an injured employee and their family to give you perspective on why safety matters. The employee, their family, your workforce and the company have all been affected by the event. Inevitably you will be asked: How did it happen? Has something like this ever happened before? How will you make sure it never happens again? The measure of the character of a company, and of a leader and their team, is how tenaciously they attack that last question. If you accept token effort, then someone else will be hurt in the same way again.