Building a Workplace Culture of Safety

Apr 5, 2022

Workers putting their hands together

Workplace injuries and illnesses are incredibly costly in both time and money. There are also many indirect costs involved with workplace injury and illness. 

We, as employers, can’t lose track of the human and emotional piece either. Because, beyond the costs associated with these incidents, we can’t forget there is a human that could potentially get hurt or sick. It’s become even more important to go beyond required safety procedures and build a workplace safety culture.

Keep reading to learn more about how to do this. 

First aid team helps construction worker who was hurt on the job.

The Direct Costs of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics report showed 2.7 million reported nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses in the U.S. in 2021. And these incidents don’t come cheap. An unsafe workplace can be very costly for employers in both time and money.

The National Safety Council estimated workplace injury costs to be
$171B in 2019, approximately $1,100 per worker.

This $171B includes wage and productivity losses totaling $53.9B. It also consists of the value of time lost by workers and the time required to investigate injuries, coming out to $13.3B. 

Liberty Mutual’s 2021 Workplace Safety Index estimated that
employers paid over $1B per week in workers’ compensation costs. It’s incredibly costly to be without your valuable employees at work. 

Employers lost a total of 105 million days in 2019 due to injuries. As we say, time is money, which can directly impact your bottom line.

Employee holds a clipboard while talking to safety team.

Indirect Costs of Workplace Illness and Injury

Sometimes we forget there are other costs associated with an unsafe workplace beyond those directly attributed to the injury or illness. 

These other costs that businesses must incur are indirect costs, which add up quickly. A recent study found that for every dollar spent on direct costs of workplace injuries, employers spent approximately
$2 on indirect costs

OSHA explains that the indirect costs of workplace illnesses and injuries include:

  • Training replacement employees
  • Accident investigation and resolution
  • Loss of productivity
  • Repairs of damaged equipment or property
  • Low employee morale 
  • Absenteeism 

Sometimes it can take several months to resolve a workplace injury or illness, and during this time, your business is incurring both direct and indirect costs. Workplace incidents can displace valuable time and energy, making it even more important to create a safer workplace. 

Consider also the human aspect of workplace injuries and illnesses. People deserve to feel completely safe at work without fear of serious harm. Achieving a complete sense of trust and safety requires building safety into your company’s DNA.

People in vests and hard hats putting their hands together.

What is a Culture of Safety?

Safety culture doesn’t mean you’re good to go by hanging safety posters in the employee breakroom. While it’s imperative to have these things, it goes far deeper than the standard safety guidelines and procedures. 

The human piece of your business should be the motivator to create a culture of safety, not just the need to do the bare minimum. When a workplace has a safety culture, this goes beyond all of the standard safety must-haves. 

It ultimately means employees should adhere to all safety basics but are also fully committed to making the workplace safer for everyone. 

This is a powerful way to empower employees with the means to create a safer workplace. And it also ensures that people at all levels of the organization take personal accountability for the safety of others.

People in masks in conference room listening to man talk.

How to Build a Safety Culture 

There are several ways to approach building a culture of safety. And remember, something like this won’t come immediately – it’ll take work to ingrain safety into your company DNA. 

This process may also look different for each business. Regardless, there are some safety culture best practices we recommend to get started. 

Here are
some ways you can work towards building a safety culture over time:


Everything starts with clear and consistent communication. Be sure to share safety best practices and any updates with all employees. Communicate with and update workers often! Ensure all communications are accessible to all employees, so nobody is excluded or left in the dark.

Create a Plan for Positive Change and Goal Achievement 

To build a culture of safety, you first need to understand where your organization is at with its safety mindset. Use surveys and focus groups to gauge the current attitudes about safety. These results will help you identify opportunities and challenges for creating a safety culture. 

Then build a roadmap for change – create a set of measurable goals in this plan to help you achieve each safety objective. Communicate this plan with all employees and their role in making progress. Periodically measure your progress and be sure to reinforce the importance of safety. It’s not a one-and-done – you don’t want to fall off the wagon after making the plan. Communicate progress being made to all employees so that everyone can celebrate successes as they come. 

Man holding fire extinguisher to show team how to use it.

Safety Training

Safety training is the best way to ensure all employees know the safety expectations for their duties and the workplace. Providing thorough and periodic safety training helps build a great foundation of safety knowledge and skills. Give your employees the best chance to learn how to do their jobs safely. 

Lead by Example

A culture of safety requires employee buy-in, and this starts at the very top of your organization. Leadership and managers play a crucial role in championing safety and showing it’s a priority to other employees. They should equip employees with the necessary resources and support to do their work safely. 

Involve Everyone

A safety committee is a great way to keep everyone on the same page with safety expectations, updates, or future improvements. It creates a community mindset that you’re all there to help tackle safety together. This committee should include individuals at all levels of the organization to provide diverse insights and opinions – nobody should be excluded from joining and participating in the safety committee. Without involving the entire workforce, you leave room for safety mishaps and slip-ups. 

Create a Safety and Health Program

A safety and health program is a general plan to keep your workforce free from work-related injuries and illnesses. Instead of reacting to accidents after the fact, this tool helps you take a proactive approach to prevent them ahead of time. Identifying and resolving hazards before they become a problem is a much more effective way to create a safer workplace.

As you can tell, building a culture of safety isn’t an easy task, but one that will help improve your overall workplace safety. When you have a group of people dedicated to making the workplace as safe as possible, you’ll see a difference. 

Workplace injuries and illnesses aren’t cheap, nor is the emotional cost. So, what is the first step you will take towards building a culture of safety in your organization?


HR Annie can support the development of a safety program and help you work towards creating a culture of safety. Contact us today to get started!

Blog / News