Let’s face it … we have to face it … the waste industry is one of the most dangerous industries in the world. It continually has high rates of fatalities and injuries. While these rates have dropped over the years, the numbers are still too high. To bring these numbers down, it is going to take a team effort on everyone’s part—from large company CEOs to drivers in small “mom-and-pop” companies, to work together to eliminate accidents and injuries. What can be done to bring all these various parts together to focus on safety? Ideally the easiest, most cost-effective and practical way would be to work together to change the safety culture within your organization.
What is a Safety Culture?
Webster’s Dictionary defines culture as “…the set of shared attitudes, values, goals and practices that characterizes an institution or organization.” But it also has a separate definition as “…the characteristic features of everyday existence (as diversions or a way of life) shared by people in a place or time.” When applied to safety, both definitions work well. However, in the second definition, culture seems to take on a stronger, more permanent meaning as “features of everyday existence.” A safety culture must have this existence to permeate throughout an organization from top to bottom, through all locations, departments, lines of business, and throughout each and every person within a company.
Four Characteristics of a Safety Culture
A safety culture has distinct characteristics that make it unique from the various other cultures within an organization:
- Safety is held as a value by all employees
- Each employee feels responsible for the safety of their co-workers, as well as themselves
- Each employee is willing and able to “go beyond the call of duty” on behalf of the safety of others
- Each employee routinely performs job duties while actively caring for, and performing safety behaviors, for the benefit of others
These characteristics can almost be drawn from parallels to a family, and are evident in many familyrun waste companies. When it is your spouse or sibling working beside you, you cannot (nor will not) be too careful. We will all be keepers to our brothers and sisters in the waste industry.