Is Workplace Safety an Ethical Duty?
Most people might agree with the commonly used definition of workplace safety as “keeping yourself and others free from harm or danger.” It is an “adequate” statement, but as a former factory worker myself in addition to a workplace safety keynote speaker, I know that for those who work in factories, construction, transportation and other potentially dangerous jobs, safety is often seen in another light.
The Ethical Duty We Share
Canadian-based Workplace Compliance Safety, Ltd., a company that offers safety solutions to major manufacturing companies throughout North America, found that the top 5reasons companies advocate for maintaining a safe work environment include: more productivity– employees who work in safer environments want to produce more; a drop in absentee rates – employees aren’t afraid to come to work if the environment is safe; workers are motivated to greater safety because they feel the company holds everyone accountable to standards; workers are happier in safe environments; and the only obvious in the top five, that in safer environmentsinsurance claims decrease. In viewing these safety motivators, it seems as though employees feel it is their ethical obligation to be safe and to keep their co-workers safe. This isn’t as farfetched as it sounds.
“Your personal safety ethics are something that you have formed over your life and bring with you (to work). I do believe that the organizational ethical climate can have an influence on your personal safety ethic,” said E. Andrew Kapp, associate professor in the Department of Occupational and Environmental Safety and Health at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.
In other words, people bring their safety values to the job, but the job also brings its values to the workers. It is an ethical sharing of a safety culture.
The Ethical Culture of Trust
Safety consultant Dennis Jackson, writing for Safety & Health magazine said, “Culture is an important element of safety success. Organizations that have strong, adaptive (safety) cultures also tend to have low injury rates…under the demands of day-to-day activity, safety systems will be used rigorously only if the culture supports it.”
The Southwest Center for Occupational & Environmental Health also concluded that “Instilling a true culture of safety is a long-term process requiring trust and commitment at all levels. The issue of ethical (safety) decision making goes beyond the traditional boundaries of typical safety programs.”
It comes down to motivation and trust. In our workplaces, are we ethically motivated to create a safe environment and do we trust that the leadership of our companies is as committed to safety as are the workers who want to work in safe conditions?
Workplace safety is an ethical culture that must exist in the organization at all levels. As much as safety signs, manuals and procedures have meaning, how we share common safety values is what truly matters to workers.
For far too long, workplace safety has been thought of as “statistics,” be they serious injuries, days away from work, or insurance numbers. It’s time we pay more attention to what gives workers a feeling of happiness, confidence and wanting to produce the goods and services that give value to their organizations. The ethical safety commitment matters more than slogans;it is a duty we should never ignore.
Mike Hourigan, Workplace Safety Motivational Speaker
For more information on Mike Hourigan’s dynamic workplace safety keynote speeches and meeting breakout seminars, call him today at: (704) 875-3030 or fill out the form below.