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  • Feature Story

Building a Culture of Prevention: The Employee’s Role

Light meal at work

June 15, 2015

In the global marketplace, employees today are under intense pressure to produce high-quality work products at an ever faster pace. Simultaneously, the U.S. workforce is getting older and less healthy. The consequences of a demanding work environment and shifting workforce demographics include added stress, weight gain, loss of institutional knowledge, frequent shortcuts and workplace accidents. These factors serve as potential challenges to the creation of a company-wide culture that is supportive of workplace health and safety prevention.

Part 1 of this two-part series reviewed how organizational management can establish a roadmap and implement training to create an environment where employees can succeed in building overall health and safety into their daily actions. Once management establishes a structure, collaboration among all stakeholders, top to bottom, should lead to real change and sustain a workplace culture of health and safety.

The first critical step for employee buy-in to a health and safety culture is taking responsibility for one’s well-being, adopting the principle that a healthy worker is a safe worker. Employees should participate in company health and wellness initiatives that encourage the adoption of healthier behaviors. Integrating health promotion activities with occupational safety efforts may increase program effectiveness and participation, enhancing the overall well-being of the workforce while decreasing the likelihood of workplace injuries and illnesses.

Moreover, employees should make a personal commitment to their safety and their co-workers’. In an organization that values and cultivates transparency, employees should understand and identify potential risks that exist within the workplace environment, reporting unsafe behaviors and conditions before an accident occurs.

In anticipation of the looming Baby Boomer exodus from the workforce, employees of all ages should work together to transfer institutional knowledge and different perspectives on organizational safety from retiring employees to younger workers.

Lastly, employee engagement in training and education will promote safe working practices and encourage employees to be active participants in establishing a culture of workplace health and safety. All levels of an organization – from top to bottom and across functions – should work together to advance the state-of-the-art in the application of workplace health and safety principles. With the proper framework in place, employees will foster a culture of safety and help their organizations sustain it for years to come.