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Health & Safety is a Culture and a Mindset

In our day and age of abundant and ruthless competition, maintaining an organisation's competitive advantage is no longer predominantly determined by the quality of its products and services. The competitive landscape today is mainly concerned with aspects such as customer journey, innovation, creativity, differentiation, CSR and sustainability to name a few.

When talking about customer journey in specific, businesses often focus their attention on creating an emotional connection with their customers and delivering an experience rather than a mere service. An integral part of such journey is the the health and safety of the customer, and the slightest shortfall in providing a healthy and safe experience to customers can have detrimental consequences to the business, its reputation and image as well as its entire workforce from front liners all the way up to senior executives.

Let's look at a few examples below where things can go terribly wrong wile putting ourselves in the customer's shoes:

- You went to your local hypermarket and bought cooking cream. You prepared a meal with the cooking cream and the whole family ate from this meal. The next day all of you are sick and you found out that the cooking cream you bought had expired a day earlier.

- You went to a waterpark for a family day out, and while enjoying her time in the pool, your 12 year old daughter almost drowned because she had a cramp in her leg in the deep area of the pool and the lifeguard didn't pay attention. She was luckily rescued by another customer who managed to help her.

- During your time in a retail shop, your 10 year old son trips and falls injuring his arm due to a loose wire dangling on the floor.

- While looking at the properties available for rent in a realtor's office, the ceiling lamp falls over your head and injures you.

In all of the previous examples, how likely are you to say "it was just an accident" and continue with your activities as if nothing had happened? And how likely are you to return to any of these venues or to speak about them favourably? What would you think about these companies if you heard these stories over the news?

We can give countless examples, some more extreme than others, but you got the picture. No matter what type of business or industry you're in, there are definitely health and safety hazards surrounding you and your customers, and any accidents that happen due to negligence or shortfall in proactively addressing health and safety concerns could be detrimental to the business.

It is part of your accountability as an HC practitioner in your organisation to ensure that the health and safety culture and practices of your team members are up to standards. And here, we need to get something straight out of the way: while cramming training and refreshers down people's throats might get some to comply, for the most part, others will feel that you're merely propagating and overemphasising for the sake of show off and won't genuinely buy into this "enforced culture" of health and safety.

To promote an intuitive and genuine health and safety culture, you might want to consider the following:

- Are you looking after the health and safety of your own employees in the right way? (long shifts, poor hygiene in staff areas, unfavourable living conditions in dorms including different exposure to hazards...etc.)

- Are you consistent with your messaging? (role modeling standard and desirable behviours, rewarding good behaviours and disciplining poor ones, using different communication channels, promoting positive reinforcement with the management team...etc.)

- WIIFM (not as in a radio channel dedicated to a video games console!), the What's In It For Me (or WIIFM) is an excellent method to show the value proposition and secure everyone's buy into your health and safety culture. What are the repercussions to the employees themselves if some major incident happens? How would it affect the company and how would that in turn affect them personally in case it leads to legal complications? In contrast, how would a good health and safety practice affect their relationships with their customers, their colleagues and their performance evaluation?

- Explaining the why and sharing experiences from actual events is also very helpful. People always comply better when they understand why they're doing something, they also relate to real life experiences and storytelling better than corporate communications or training. Look for pictures, videos, news articles and share some of the catastrophic outcomes of a poor health and safety culture and the myriad of merits to a healthy one.

- Celebrate your organisation's outstanding health and safety achievements and those of your team members. Make a big deal out of them and propagate them, show people how important it is to sustain a good practice.

These are but some ways to help you promote a healthier and safer culture. Your focus should be on facilitating a shift in mindset for health and safety to be embedded in the DNA of your culture. Unless a mindset shift happens, it would be very difficult to ensure that the health and safety standards you're promoting are well adhered to and truly lived by your wider team.

There's no point in investing big amounts of money on your customer journey/experience when you have a broken health and safety practice. After all, the need for safety comes second after physical needs in Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs!

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