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Workplace Safety

Building a Safety-Focused Culture in Your Workplace

A well-designed workplace health and safety program, including training and regular communication, is essential in keeping employees safe at work.

Health and safety are important in every workplace. But how do you motivate everyone to stay interested and keep safe work practices top of mind?

Start with a robust program

A health and safety program isn’t just good practice to keep employees safe at work — it’s the law in most parts of Canada. Your program should include all the elements required by the legislation, such as policies, training, and workplace inspection procedures, and can include other safety initiatives that you develop with involvement from others — including the health and safety committee or representative, and the union if applicable. Communicate your program, apply it throughout your organization, make it part of your business practices, and evaluate it on an ongoing basis.

Train well and often

A reliable way to increase engagement with safety is to promote a strong safety culture, beginning with onboarding. Make training interactive — studies have shown that the level of employee engagement in training is a key factor in determining the effectiveness of an organization’s safety program. Training that involves hands-on practice in a realistic setting can result in stronger retention of the material, which may lead to reduced workplace incidents.

There are several important areas to include in safety training and orientations. Orientation should provide safety education and training and should instruct employees what to do in the case of an injury or emergency. Provide education on workplace policies, procedures, and programs. Training must include task-specific information, such as the safe operation of any machinery and the proper use, storage, and maintenance of any required personal protective equipment.

Communicating these safe work practices doesn’t start and stop with a new hire — it’s equally important to provide training on an ongoing basis to existing employees to help everyone develop a safety-first attitude.

Reinforce that everyone has a role to play

It’s important to routinely check in with your employees to review safe work procedures. If there’s something that isn’t working for them, see if there’s anything you can do to improve the process without sacrificing safety or introducing new hazards. When developing new procedures, focus on identifying and controlling the hazards at each step of the task. Employees are the most familiar with the tasks, so be sure to include them in discussions. They may have additional feedback or suggestions for improvement. Encourage them to speak up when they see unsafe acts and to report any health and safety concerns to their supervisor.

Organize regular re-training sessions for managers and supervisors on how to conduct safety audits, workplace inspections, and incident investigations. Wherever possible, have them participate in new hire orientations and lead safety meetings. These interactions will demonstrate their commitment to health and safety.

Communication and involvement are key to engaging employees in health and safety. Hold focus groups, send surveys, or set up interviews to seek feedback on current perceptions of safety culture. You may also learn which values guide and motivate employees on a day-to-day basis. Be sure to always follow up and thank them for their feedback. While you may not be able to make changes right away, letting people know their voice is heard and that you’re committed to improvements will help foster an environment where your workers feel engaged, involved, and valued.

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The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) promotes the total well-being — physical, psychosocial, and mental health — of workers in Canada by providing information, advice, education, and management systems and solutions that support the prevention of injury and illness.

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