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The Coca-Cola Company has a logo of a bottle cap that says, “Always Safety” on it. Around the bottle cap the message reads, “On Top of Everything We Do.” It is relevant to their business, catchy, and sends the right signals. Before you get to this point in your safety program, there are a few items that need to be in place.

You have management commitment, meaning that the senior managers are behind the safety program. They provide the necessary resources to fulfill the objectives of the program by allowing time for attending training and by authorizing a budget for safety. When managers look at the metrics that determine their incentive bonuses, safety performance is included with other measurements such as volume, quality, and profit. If you do not have senior management commitment, start there by presenting your case to them. You are not “saving the company money” by decreasing claims; you are “making money” for the company by decreasing injuries and accidents, increasing productivity, lowering insurance costs, and decreasing turnover by positively affecting the culture of the workplace.

Once you have management commitment, you have written safety policies. Make sure that your policies are realistic, meaning that they reflect the actual way you do business, not the way you would like to do business. If you need to change the policy to match your habits or change your best practices to match the policy, be guided by whichever will prevent the most injuries.

So you have all of the required OSHA programs on the shelf. You are familiar with the regulations that apply to your operation, such as machine guarding, respiratory protection, hazard communication, lockout tagout, forklift certification, and more. Now that you have senior management behind you and a binder of written policies, what do you do with them? How do you spread the word?

Come up with a marketing plan for your safety program, and then train your supervisors and managers before launching it with your employees. Employees will go to their supervisors with questions, so the supervisors need to be prepared. Back to marketing.

Your only limits are the limits of your imagination. Be creative. Decide what your message is, possibly “Zero is our Hero” or something about zero injuries. I recently heard a speaker suggest “I Pee Clearly Now” as a slogan for a hydration program. Come up with a good one that is easy to say and easy to remember.

Use all existing channels of communication to get the message across. Take a photo of the employee with the best safety record and distribute it to all locations for their bulletin board with quotes of how he or she operates safely on a daily basis. Ask employees what is important to them. If an employee says his family is why he works so hard, take a picture of him at home with his family. Blow it up into a poster and put it on the wall in the shop or by the time clock with a quote from him and a line about why we work safely. If it’s a sports car or a beach house, blow that up into a poster to keep it interesting. Rotate the posters to keep employees looking. Most people like to see their own name and their own picture being recognized at work.

Put the safety message on employees’ paychecks. If your payroll service does not offer that space, use check stuffers. Prominently display company or department safety awards. When calling another location to check on results, ask about safety. Include safety in recruiting ads, job descriptions, in the new employee orientation, in management and employee training, in the employee handbook, in company newsletters… If you do not have a company newsletter, create one or start a safety newsletter. Ply Marts, Inc. in Norcross, GA sends one out monthly called “Safety Shorts.” It’s a one page deal that gets attention.

Eaton Corporation, a global company, has a spanking new, highly desirable gas grill positioned at the entrance to the employee break room with a suggestion box on top of it. They track the suggestions, and the employee with the suggestions that have the largest impact on scrap reduction, quality improvement, safety, etc., gets the grill. It’s a great incentive to think about ways to improve. The grill cost about $700, and the suggestions netted tens of thousands of dollars in one year.

Create a logo for your safety program and use it along with a set template for your safety communications. You want everyone to instantly recognize a safety related message. Hold a logo contest with your employees and their families, and recognize the winner and publish all submissions in your safety newsletter. I heard of one company that gave their employees safety glasses to take home. They made the point that safety is a 24 hour focus, not something that we start to think about when we walk in the door at work.

Get management commitment by clearly communicating the goals of your safety program. Get the written policies in place to satisfy OSHA and to crystallize your thinking on safe procedures. Train your supervisors and managers, then your employees. Launch your safety marketing campaign and stick with it. Be creative. Good marketing will make the message stick in the minds of your employees, and that’s where you want it.

--Scott Mastley, SPHR, is the Principal of Mastley Performance Group, Inc. and provides human resources and safety solutions for growing businesses. Visit or call 404-425-4154 to learn more.

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Comment by Lara Kretler on February 20, 2009 at 9:04am
Thanks, Scott. Great article. The hydration program slogan made me laugh out loud! ;)

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