An organization’s safety culture is determined by the mindset, attitudes and behaviors of both the owners and workers and must be communicated throughout every level of the organization. To maintain a positive safety culture, changes are often necessary and are normally met with resistance. Complacency and refusing to do things differently can result in injuries, accidents, and at times, even loss of life.
Let’s look at the four phases of safety culture change that will take place when introducing new concepts and attempting to build a strong culture of safety in the work environment. Note how all of these are natural phases but lead to incessant improvement.
People resist or reject change for several reasons and the rejection can take on several forms, such as quarreling, ignoring the change or expressing reasons why the change will not work. For many people, change can even bring on a sense of loss. This is why everyone wants things to continue as before. Introducing new ideas and changing the way things are done can make others feel as if they’ve lost control over their environment. With this mind, you should always invite others to be a part of the process that surrounds making changes to ensure a safe working environment.
We are creatures of habit, so naturally, as new changes are set in motion, frustrations will emerge along with anger and even depression for some. It is not uncommon for the work setting to take on a negative atmosphere while people struggle to accept what is taking place. Change tends to be uncomfortable as routines are interrupted and things are not the same as before. Those who do not want to accept or make changes may withdraw or ultimately leave the organization. As work methods and routine office procedures become unfamiliar, a reduction in productivity may be evident, as well. It is important to stay focused on keeping things as familiar as possible, as too many changes at once can be distracting and complicated.
Slowly, your employees will begin to accept the necessary changes that must take place. This stage tends to generate a higher morale and an increase in commitment from workers. As this new way of thinking and doing things take place, productivity will most likely improve; the environment may experience an influx of energizing as others step up and take on new roles and responsibilities. Your workers will likely become more willing to make new situations work, and this is when mindsets, attitudes, and behaviors are taking shape in creating a positive safety culture. As new procedures are put in motion and everyone has an active role, this reinforces the value of safety. In addition, a decrease in injuries, along with trust, productivity, employee pride, and the retention of existing employees, sets the stage for a successful culture that is focused on safety.
In the last stage, your workers have embraced the change and are now ready to move forward. New roles and responsibilities are accepted and productivity continues to improve. People feel more confident about their ability to adapt and make the necessary changes and want to be involved in creating a positive safety culture. Reinforcement and support are important to encourage progress and motivate others in their continuing efforts. As trust is built, everyone should be updated throughout the process as each change takes place. In the same way that a business thrives on embracing change, so it is with individuals. Adapting to workplace change to ensure everyone has a positive attitude and mindset regarding safety is vital to both an individual’s career and the success of an organization.
Change takes time. Learn the four phases of safety of employee change to ensure you are going about implementing changes in a safe manner.