In the realm of workplace safety, the phrase “Safety is our first priority” has become a common mantra. However, it’s time to challenge this notion and acknowledge that priorities can shift based on circumstances. Let’s be honest; as organizations, our ultimate priority lies in profitability and growth. While safety is undoubtedly important, it often competes with other business goals and can be deprioritized when push comes to shove. To truly create a safe work environment, we must move beyond safety as a mere priority and embrace it as a core value ingrained in every facet of our operations.
Research and studies suggest that we need a different perspective. Safety should not be viewed as a standalone priority but rather as an integral part of business as usual (BAU), on par with ethical conduct and customer satisfaction. A study by Hale and Borys (2013) highlights the shift from “safety as a priority” to “safety as a value.” They argue that safety, as a value, should permeate the corporate culture, influencing every decision and action taken. This approach fosters sustainable safety outcomes, surpassing the effectiveness of merely considering safety as a priority.
It is high time we challenge traditional thinking and develop environments where profitability and safety go hand in hand, leading to improved operational performance. Rather than vocalizing “safety is our number one priority,” we must focus on building systems and processes that demonstrate to our employees that safety is an inseparable and integral part of BAU. By integrating safety into daily operations, we create a culture where everyone is accountable and actively involved in ensuring a safe work environment.
To truly embed safety as a core value, organizations can take several practical steps. First, leadership must champion safety by setting clear expectations and providing necessary resources. Second, safety training and education should be continuous, reinforcing safe practices and empowering employees to make informed decisions. Third, safety metrics and performance indicators should be integrated into key performance indicators (KPIs), emphasizing the importance of safety alongside financial goals. Finally, fostering open communication channels and actively involving employees in safety initiatives can further reinforce safety as a shared value.
Safety should not be viewed as a mere priority but as a core value that influences every aspect of an organization. By shifting our mindset and integrating safety into BAU, we create a workplace where safety and profitability coexist harmoniously. Let’s move beyond empty slogans and prioritize actions that demonstrate our unwavering commitment to the well-being of our employees. Together, we can build safer work environments that drive sustainable success for both our workers and our organizations.