Anyone who has responsibility for safety at their company can tell you that policies and procedures aren’t enough to create a workplace that’s as safe as it should be.

You can put a solid safety program in place, including safety tools such as The Checker inspection checklists. However, if personnel don’t take safety seriously, the risk of workplace injuries is still too high.

But how do you get personnel to understand the vital importance of safety? How can you make it sink in?

I recommend continually communicating and reinforcing two fundamental messages, which you can phrase as questions that drive home the reality that workplace safety is about people more than anything.

Do you want to get hurt?

Nobody comes to work to get injured. Yet many people don’t pay attention to their own personal safety on the job. Perhaps they get too caught up in being productive, or maybe they’re just trying to do as little as possible. In relation to safety, the reason doesn’t matter—what they are failing to realize is that they, more than anyone, are responsible for their own skin.

Workplace safety begins with a realization that people's well-being is at stake, including your own!If they don’t want to get hurt, they have to look out for themselves. That’s the message you want them to internalize.

When personnel not only understand this truth, but don’t ever forget it, then you have a powerful weapon against occupational injuries. If everybody at your company (or at least almost everybody) refuses to do anything that compromises their safety, the likelihood of workplace accidents decreases considerably.

Do you want anyone else to get hurt?

Ask your personnel: How would you feel if you noticed a hazard and didn’t correct it, then one of your coworkers injured themselves because of that hazard?

This can be as simple as seeing a puddle of water on the floor and not wiping it up or reporting it to the appropriate person. Then someone comes along, slips in the water, and breaks an arm. Since you saw the water and did nothing about it, you’re going to feel pretty bad, unless you’re completely callous.

Describe scenarios like that when you discuss workplace safety at your company. Most people don’t want to be the cause of other people’s injuries, so this method can be highly effective in getting people to pay attention to how safely they’re acting.

In a way, you’re using the power of guilt. You want personnel to feel bad if they’re not being as safe as they could be, realizing that they’re making things more dangerous for the people around them. Think of it as instilling a “safety conscience,” which is a very good thing for personnel to have.


Creating a legitimate safety culture takes more than policies and procedures; it also requires personnel to truly buy in to safety. One of the best ways to do that is to constantly remind them of what’s at stake for them personally—their  own health and their role in the well-being of the people they work with. 


Image courtesy of Joshua Doubek, Creative Commons.

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