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A Brand New Way to Look at Safety

By Carl and Deb Potter

Some companies spend tens of thousands of dollars to develop a brand for their products. Branding is an essential part of the marketing process, as it is how consumers recognize their favorite products and how those products are positioned in comparison to other similar products.

Have you ever thought about the branding of your safety management process? Chances are you never considered branding and safety in the same thought. People usually think about branding as part of marketing or product identification. Companies spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to develop and protect their brand. Customers often build their loyalty around a brand-name product.

Think about what kind of vehicle you drive.   You may drive a Chevy, a Ford, or a Dodge. These companies have developed a brand of stability, family-orientation and tried-and-true transportation. Some of you may drive what others of us only dream of: a Viper, a Maserati or an Aston Martin. These brands are thought of representing extreme eloquence, wealth, speed and independence. Somewhere in between these classes of vehicles are the luxury vehicles and the rugged sports utility vehicles.  All you have to do is consider one of these brands and you think of speed and sports.

What’s Your Safety Brand?: What do you think of when you think about your organization’s safety management process? Better yet, what do your employees think of? Let’s explore a few different brands of safety management.

Ho-Hummer: Not to be confused with the rugged luxury vehicle, this safety management process is lackadaisical at best. It is characterized by a lack of strong leadership. Executives consider safety as a “necessary evil” and managers treat safety as just one more thing on a long list of things to pay attention to. Supervisors pay only mild attention to safety during infrequent team meetings and employees are more focused on getting the work done rather than on safety.

F.O.R.D.: The Fix Or Repair Daily safety management process is one that is constantly in a state of change. No central focus exists and different managers and leaders have different agendas when it comes to safety. Employees are not sure what the goals are because of the constant change. Processes are disjointed or broken, employees are not sure what the safe work procedures are, and worse, they are not sure who makes the decision when it comes to addressing safety hazards.

Lacks Us: Unlike the Lexus, with its great curb presence, this safety management process does not appeal to employees because it does not directly involve them. Safe work practices are developed by the safety department, approved by management and enforced by supervisors. Employees are not a part of the process.

Build Your Safety Brand: The world’s most successful companies deliberately and purposely establish their brand. Coca-Cola, McDonalds, IBM and Sony are examples of companies who are recognized around the globe. The quality and appeal of these companies’ products are usually high. Virtually everyone recognizes these companies and what they deliver. Customers know what they can expect from these companies.    Product branding involves developing an image that set an expectation, positioning in context with the competition, and advertising and marketing. We can learn from the principles of branding when it comes to letting employees know what to expect from their organizations’ safety management processes.  Consider the following to improve your safety program’s visibility and acceptance.

1.      Create a fresh and positive image for your safety program: Your safety management process has an image. Is it a deliberate image or has it been haphazardly developed so that employees do not know what the process stands for? Find some new and positive ways to communicate safety in your organization to encourage employees and leaders to be a part of the process of working safe.

2.      Position safety as a core value in your organization: Your safety management process has a position in the context of the organization. Are executives aware of it and do they openly and wholeheartedly support it? Or, do executives and managers only give it an occasional acknowledgement, sending the signal to employees that their safety and well-being are not paramount? Encourage executives to place a high value on employee safety and demonstrate their commitment daily.

3.      Develop and communicate a strong safety message: Your safety management process needs to be marketed and advertised. Yes, even to an internal audience. You want your “customers” – the employees – to buy-in to the product of safety, don’t you? How visible is safety and your associated management process? Is the message well communicated frequently – like a billboard? Or is it more like a 2”x2” black and white ad in the back of a magazine – one that someone might stumble across if he or she was looking for it?

Stop to consider what you and your employees think about the image, positioning, and importance of safety in your company. Take steps to improve safety loyalty in your organization to increase awareness and to keep safety on the top of everyone’s mind.

Read other articles and learn more about Carl and Deb Potter.

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