Despite significant efforts to prevent accidents in workplaces, employers are not out of the woods just yet. Consider the following:

  • There have been more than 3,800 workplace-related deaths in Canada from 2017 to 2020, according to workers' compensation figures.
  • Twenty percent of Canadian businesses do not offer safety and orientation programs that are legally required for new workers in much of the country.
  • In 2022, Canada recorded 993 workplace fatalities, according to data from the Association of Workers' Compensation Boards of Canada. However, one expert suggests the actual number could be ten times higher.

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By not doing enough to ensure the safety of your work environment, you risk catastrophic bottom-line consequences — and you won’t be able to position yourself as an employer of choice. Fortunately, there are effective ways to enhance workplace safety, and the experts at Randstad are here to help. In this article, we lay out a five-stage safety maturity and excellence model, along with seven key focus areas for improvement. You’ll learn:

  • why safety must be woven into business strategy, leadership, employee engagement, workplace culture and more
  • the key role of safety professionals and metrics in organizational safety maturity
  • how to assess your current level of safety maturity
  • how to begin developing a roadmap to safety excellence at your organization today

Start with these insights and you’ll be on the path to best-in-class safety practices in no time.   

the five stages of safety maturity

Viewed from a high level, nearly every manufacturing and logistics company today can be bucketed into one of the following five stages when it comes to safety maturity.

restrictive ("no-care culture")

A low level of ownership, both individually and collectively, characterizes the safety culture at these companies. Improvements are generally unwelcome, and shortcuts, accidents and injuries common.

reactive ("blame culture")

Reactive companies are backward-looking, only identifying problems after incidents occur and often resorting to punitive measures for improvements going forward.

in transition ("compliance culture")

These companies rely on regulatory requirements to deliver the message of safety's importance. They may have safety-specific roles and designations internally, but generally tie goal setting back to OSHA metrics or costs.

proactive ("ownership culture")

Proactive companies are currently working to integrate safety into their business models. They tend to have some interdependency among stakeholders for safety improvements, with goal setting linked to actions and performance improvements.

transformative ("safety-as-daily-practice culture")

Key characteristics of transformative companies include clearly defined safety-management systems, as well as intervention strategies that are integrated into the roles and responsibilities of each function. There's also transparent communication and collaboration around safety at all levels of the organization.

promoting a good safety culture is one way to reduce preventable workplace incidents.

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Of course, this is only a high-level overview. For example, you might well decide that your organization doesn't fall cleanly into any one bucket, but rather straddles two (or more) — and that's fine. But since you have a far more granular view of the safety practices at your organization, it shouldn't be hard for you to find the stage that best describes your existing approach.

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7 safety focus areas  

The quality of safety leadership employees show throughout their daily activities is one of the most important factors in building a proactive safety culture. But, securing organization-wide buy-in and commitment to improving safety practices is a major obstacle for many manufacturing and logistics companies today. Indeed, top-down safety improvements, however well intended, are likely to fall flat if they lack engagement at all levels of the operation.

That's why, as you begin to map out your safety transformation, you should be sure to include the following seven areas in your plans.

  1. Consult with all employees — not just FTEs, but temporary workers, too — to get a baseline understanding of existing safety practices, procedures and the realities on the ground. Tactically, you can accomplish this a number of different ways: simple surveys, pre-shift meetings, annual performance reviews and more.
  2. Establish a safety committee (if you don't have one already) that includes a large number of front-line employees. You can incentivize participation by framing the committee as an opportunity for employees to take on leadership roles and responsibilities.
  3. Make employees part of the process as you develop new safety policies and objectives. Ask them about health inspections, incident investigations and more. Your people are an invaluable resource for problem-solving sessions, too.
  4. Provide employees with incentives for their ongoing participation in safety and health initiatives. It's important these incentives are communicated to all team members as well.
  5. Create mechanisms and communication channels that enable employees to safely and confidentially report potential hazards. This can also be a great avenue for them to put forth improvement ideas.
  6. Ensure managers not only respond to safety concerns promptly, but communicate to employees the corrective steps they're taking, too. As you implement solutions, you should also strive to involve employees in the process as much as possible.
  7. Assign specific safety-related roles to employees at all levels of the organization. For example, consider designating top-performing front-line employees as embedded safety coaches who can help identify risks and work to develop solutions on an ongoing basis.

By prioritizing these seven focus areas, you'll be able to take a far more proactive approach to workplace safety. And that, in turn, should not only improve operational efficiency but position you as a more desirable employer, too. It’s the kind of improvement that can pay dividends on your bottom line.

key takeaways

In conclusion, while strides have been made in Canadian workplace safety, there’s still ample room for improvement. With a focus on these key areas and leveraging insights tailored to the Canadian context, companies can navigate towards a safer, more secure work environment for all.

download our guide on 4 Ways to Prevent Slips, Trips, and Falls to keep your works safe all year.

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