The idea of what constitutes a safe working environment has changed significantly in today’s global business environment. Where before the focus was primarily on physical safety, many organizations have evolved to now include well-being and psychological safety as well, resulting in increased productivity and decreased turnover.
While many businesses are committed to creating and maintaining a safer work environment, knowing where to start and what to focus on can be challenging. To help, 17 Newsweek Expert Forum members each offer one essential factor business leaders should consider when working to build a safer working environment in their business.
1. Physical and Emotional Safety
Workers should feel safe in any environment with a company of any size. Workplace safety includes physical and emotional protection. Physical safety is governed by standards bodies like OSHA. Emotional safety is equally essential and often overlooked. Businesses can build emotional safety through cultural frameworks like transparency, empathy and inclusion to ensure that everyone feels valued. – Lillian Gregory, The 4D Unicorn
2. Mission, Vision and Values Statements
Doctors have a saying, “First, do no harm.” This should also be a saying in the corporate world. Safety must be built into a company’s mission, vision and values statements. All employees, including the CEO, should think safety and act safely. For example, the CEO should be the first person to role model safe behavior, such as holding the stair handrails. No one should be exempt from working safely. – Zain Jaffer, Zain Ventures
3. Hiring Procedures
In healthcare especially, one of the most essential factors to consider is hiring. Healthcare professionals bring a unique set of skills and knowledge. They should be recruited based on their qualifications and certifications, their understanding of industry compliance standards, as well as their strong communication and problem-solving skills to help identify potential issues before they become serious safety risks. – Jacob Kupietzky, HCT Executive Interim Management & Consulting
Transparency is a critical factor in building a safe and trusted workplace. Be accessible, be willing to listen, take appropriate action and take accountability. Your best source of information on potential safety risks will likely come from those who do the work. If you focus on gaining valuable insights, building trust and making your work environment safe, you will likely see the results on the bottom line. – Margie Kiesel
5. Employee Autonomy
Consider giving employees autonomy to be creative and make improvements. Providing space for them to provide their opinion within a safe forum is also key. When employees are given this leeway, you give them the chance to do what they do best and truly thrive. – Ryan Carroll, Wealth Assistants
6. Workplace Safety Awareness
It is important to promote awareness of workspace safety among your employees. Additionally, engagement plays a vital role in creating a safe work environment. When hiring new employees, prioritize those with strong ethics and extensive industry experience. – Tammy Sons, Tn Nursery
7. The Facilitation of Open Communication
One essential element of creating a safer workplace is fostering open communication. You can do this by having an open-door policy in which employees can speak and feel heard. Specifically, this entails having clear accountability measures, actionable safety plans and a code of conduct that respects each employee’s uniqueness. – Gergo Vari, Lensa
8. Upskilling Efforts for Leaders
To create a safe working environment, consider upskilling leaders to amplify whole-person leadership and fuel the creation of safe spaces and psychological safety. Leaders can also use that additional training as a tool to cultivate and nurture emotional intelligence, active listening, authenticity, vulnerability, feedback loops, conflict resolution, trust and inclusive environments. – Britton Bloch, Navy Federal
I think one important factor is inclusion. What may be safe for one team member may not be safe for another team member using a wheelchair. Additionally, signs about hazards on the wall can be great too, but not for a visually impaired colleague. – Krisztina Veres, Veres Career Consulting
10. Employee Input
Rather than assuming, ask what safety means to the variety of employees in your organization. From physical safety to psychological safety, answers will vary. This context will be critical to moving the needle on perceptions of safety. – Karen Mangia, The Engineered Innovation Group
11. Genuine Listening
In my journey with our team, I’ve realized the power of genuine listening. Ensuring everyone feels safe to voice concerns or share incidents has been transformative. It’s not just about protocols; it’s about building a community where every member looks out for one another. – Ian Wilding, Hangar 75
12. The Relationships Between Employees
One essential factor for leaders to consider when building a better and safer working environment is to get employees to start caring about each other on a personal level. Once you get that to happen, they will automatically be kinder and start looking out for each other. – Baruch Labunski, Rank Secure
13. Employee Training and Engagement Programs
Employee training and engagement are pivotal for a safe work environment. Regular safety training enhances awareness, fosters a safe culture and reduces accidents. Engaged employees provide valuable feedback, adapt to changes and boost morale. Alongside this, routine safety audits, quality equipment and leadership commitment further ensure safety. – Bala Sathyanarayanan, GREIF Inc.
One essential factor to consider is trust. When someone speaks up to try and improve safety in any facet of the work environment, they should be appreciated for it rather than chastised. – James Fox, EVBox
15. The Elimination of Anything Unsafe
Tell your people that you want to eliminate anything that causes them to feel unsafe in the company. For example, this can include having to deal with toxic co-workers or bosses. I know that handling these employees can be difficult, but one of the main reasons people leave a company is because of an abusive boss that the company does nothing about. – Mark Goulston, Mark Goulston, M.D., Inc.
16. Emotional Safety Audits
Consider implementing emotional safety audits. This kind of audit is a distinctive and holistic approach that not only evaluates the risks, but also takes into account the emotional and physical welfare of employees. This groundbreaking technique uncovers hidden sources of stress, effectively fosters better well-being and cultivates an environment where employees feel comfortable expressing their concerns. – Dr. Kira Graves, Kira Graves Consulting
17. The Prioritization of a Growth Mindset
When creating a safe working environment, it’s important to reframe failure or missteps as opportunities to learn and develop. Creating a growth mindset culture that welcomes creativity and innovation over perfection begins with leadership. Facilitating meetings that fuel brainstorming and prioritize the psychological safety of team members is key. – Leah Marone, Corporate Wellness Consultant