Safety’s Evolution Towards Psychological Safety Programming

Psychological Safety is following the path of organizational prioritization of Safety programs 20 years ago

Early in my career I was responsible for employee safety at a warehouse that had over 100 employees. It was the hardest job I have ever had. Initially, I was skeptical about my influence. What could I possibly do to ensure that people behaved safely? Yet, over the two years I was in that role, I learned more about influence than I had in any book. I started off by asking for volunteers for our safety committee. I visited each team startup meeting at least once a month and began regularly sharing safety tips and information with supervisors to share in their daily meetings. I engaged supervisors in safety issues, and their teams helped develop solutions to problems we had with equipment and policies. While our recordable injury frequency (RIF) was not perfect, we improved over the two years, and I was proud to leave that facility safer than I found it.

I was only one leader at a global organization of 80,000 employees. The prioritization of safety was set at the top. Leaders regularly said that “no job is so important that it cannot be done safely.” It was modeled in everyday behavior, with rush shipments being delayed if safety was compromised. The overt focus on safety was not just at my organization. Other organizations have realized the cost savings of avoiding injuries, and also the moral advantage of prioritizing safety to increase employee engagement and well-being.

In fact, safety remains a top priority for business leaders today. According to a recent PwC study:

  • Sixty-two percent of leaders indicate they will need to aggressively ramp up their safety efforts to attract, train and retain skilled labor.
  • Eighty-six percent of leaders said safety was an important factor in creating a positive workplace for front-line workers.
  • Mentoring, flexible scheduling and front-line supervisor engagement are key to increasing employee safety.

Twenty years later, I realize the same phenomenon is likely happening with psychological safety. Amy Edmondson, Harvard Business School professor and thought leader in psychological safety, defines the concept as……..

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