The idea of what constitutes a safe work environment has changed significantly in today’s global business environment. While the focus was previously primarily on physical safety, many companies have evolved to include well-being and psychological safety, resulting in higher productivity and lower turnover.
While many companies 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 an essential factor that business leaders should consider as they work to create a safer work environment in their organization.
1. Physical and emotional safety
Employees should feel safe in any environment in a company of any size. Workplace safety includes physical and emotional protection. Physical safety is regulated by standards bodies such as OSHA. Emotional safety is equally important and often overlooked. Companies can build emotional safety through cultural frameworks such as transparency, empathy and inclusion to ensure everyone feels valued. – Lillian Gregory, The 4D unicorn
2. Statements of mission, vision and values
Doctors have a saying: “First, do no harm.” This may also be a saying in the corporate world. Security must be integrated into a company’s mission, vision and value statement. All employees, including the CEO, should think about safety and act safely. For example, the CEO should be the first person to role model safe behavior, such as holding the stair railings. No one should be exempt from working safely. – Zain Jaffer, Zain Ventures
3. Recruitment process
Particularly in healthcare, hiring is one of the most important factors to consider. Healthcare professionals bring unique skills and knowledge. They should be hired based on their qualifications and certifications, their understanding of industry compliance standards, and their strong communication and problem-solving skills to identify potential problems before they become serious security risks. – Jacob Kupietzky, HCT Executive Interim Management & Consulting
Transparency is a crucial factor in building a safe and trustworthy workplace. Be approachable, willing to listen, take appropriate action and accept responsibility. Your best source of information about potential security risks will likely be those doing the work. If you focus on gaining valuable insights, building trust, and making your work environment safe, you’ll likely see the bottom line results. – Margie Kiesel
5. Employee autonomy
Consider giving employees the freedom to be creative and make improvements. It is also important to give them space to express their opinions in a safe forum. When employees are given this leeway, you give them the chance to do what they do best and be truly successful. – Ryan Carroll, Wealth assistants
6. Safety awareness in the workplace
It is important to promote awareness of workplace safety among your employees. Additionally, engagement plays a crucial role in creating a safe work environment. When hiring new employees, give preference to those with strong ethics and extensive industry experience. – Tammy Sons, Tn kindergarten
7. Facilitating open communication
A key element to creating a safer workplace is encouraging open communication. You can achieve this by implementing an open-door policy where employees can speak and feel heard. Specifically, this involves clear accountability measures, actionable safety plans and a code of conduct that respects the uniqueness of each employee. – Gergo Vari, Lensa
8. Executive education efforts
To create a safe work environment, consider upskilling leaders to strengthen holistic leadership and promote the creation of safe spaces and psychological safety. Leaders can also use this additional training as a tool to cultivate and promote emotional intelligence, active listening, authenticity, vulnerability, feedback loops, conflict resolution, trust, and inclusive environments. – Britton Bloch, Navy Federal
I think an important factor is inclusion. What may be safe for one team member may not be safe for another team member who uses a wheelchair. In addition, hazard warning signs on the wall can also be useful, although not for a visually impaired colleague. – Kristina Veres, Veres career advice
10. Employee Submissions
Instead of making assumptions, ask yourself what security means to the different employees in your company. From physical safety to psychological safety, the answers will vary. This context will be crucial in influencing perceptions of safety. – Karen Mangia, The Engineered Innovation Group
11. Real listening
In my journey with our team, I have realized the power of genuine listening. Ensuring everyone feels safe to raise concerns or share incidents has been transformational. It’s not just about protocols; It’s about building a community where every member looks out for each other. – Ian Wilding, Hangar 75
12. Relationships between employees
A key factor that leaders must consider when building a better and safer work environment is getting employees to care about each other on a personal level. Once they do this, they automatically become friendlier and start looking out for each other. – Baruch Labunski, Rank safe
13. Employee training and engagement programs
Employee training and engagement are critical to a safe work environment. Regular safety training increases awareness, promotes a safety culture and reduces accidents. Engaged employees provide valuable feedback, adapt to changes, and boost morale. In addition, routine safety audits, high-quality equipment and leadership commitment ensure additional safety. – Bala Sathyanarayanan, GREIF Inc.
15. The elimination of all unsafe things
Tell your employees that you want to eliminate anything that makes them feel unsafe in the company. This can include, for example, dealing with toxic colleagues or superiors. I know these employees can be difficult to deal with, but one of the main reasons people leave a company is an abusive boss that the company does nothing about. – Mark Goulston, Mark Goulston, MD, Inc.
16. Emotional security audits
Consider conducting emotional safety audits. This type of audit is a unique and holistic approach that not only assesses the risks but also takes into account the emotional and physical well-being of employees. This groundbreaking technique uncovers hidden sources of stress, effectively promotes well-being, and creates an environment where employees feel comfortable voicing their concerns. – Dr. Kira Graves, Kira Graves Consulting
17. Prioritizing a growth mindset
When creating a safe work environment, it is important to view failures or missteps as opportunities to learn and grow. Creating a growth culture that values creativity and innovation over perfection starts with leadership. Facilitating meetings that encourage brainstorming and prioritize the psychological safety of team members is key. – Leah Marone, Corporate Wellness Consultant