Rhubarb at SkillsYouNeed

This is a guest post for Skills You Need.
Want to contribute? Find out how.

How to Motivate Your Employees to be Safe

See also: Creating a Motivational Environment

Motivating your staff to be safe can be difficult. After all, safety is about following procedure and being consistent, which contrasts with other areas of business that are about innovating, trying new things, and taking risks.

You might also argue that businesses don’t need to motivate their staff to be safe. Your business puts regulations in place and self-preservation is enough of a motivation for your staff to follow those regulations, right?

To a certain degree, this is true. Yet, the International Labour Organisation estimate that there are over a million work related fatalities every year. This is far too many and it is therefore clear that businesses have more of a role to play than simply telling staff to follow the rules.

There are many different ways to motivate your staff to be safe. However, they all start with one person: you.

If you are not motivated by safety, then your staff won’t be either.


So here are a few things to think about in order to get you and your staff motivated about safety.

Safety is Maturity

Facebook’s working mantra was once “move fast and break things”.

While this philosophy is great for product development, marketing, and sales, it is terrible philosophy for safety and sustainability. It’s also probably why Zuckerberg eventually changed Facebook’s working mantra to “move fast with stable infrastructure”.

Zuckerberg admitted that this new phrase “might not be as catchy” but it is a better mantra for a safe and sustainable businesses. A business which recognises the importance of safety is a business that shows signs of maturity.


Safety is Profitable

Accidents at work caused by bad safety cost businesses in the US $170 billion per year, and nobody can put a figure on much a fatality at work costs.

Being safe does not guarantee that your company will turn a profit. However, being unsafe is a sure-fire way of losing your company money. In other words, good safety means consistency and predictable profits, while the consequences of bad safety are never predictable or desirable.

Following Volkswagen’s decision to cut corners when it came to emissions safety, the company has been found out and is now suffering. What is more, Volkswagen’s new chief has recently claimed that the €6.5 billion set aside to deal with this crisis won’t cover the costs of making their cars safe again.

No one knows how much Volkswagen’s safety hiccup will cost them. Yet what is certain is that Volkswagen’s safer competitors are making more money.


Safety is Leadership

You might be the best qualified safety instructor in your business and your safety insights might be logically correct in every way, but if you are dislikeable then nobody will listen. Leadership is key for the safety of others.

Much ink has been spilt over the difference between a leader and a manager. The idea is that, while managers tell people what to do, leaders show people what to do by being a golden example. However, the key thing to remember is that the titles themselves do not matter. What is important is the attitude.

If you are a manager, you need to show your staff leadership when it comes to safety.

  • Rather than simply putting regulations in place and walking away, a leader makes sure that those regulations are followed.
  • Rather than acting as if they are beyond safety practices because of their privileged position, a leader takes care in every action because they know that they are likely to be emulated.
  • Rather than simply telling their employees to follow the rules, a leader explains why.

Safety is Enthusiasm

At first glance, safety might seem like a subject utterly void of enthusiasm. Yet this is simply not the case.

Like so many other great passions, safety is a subtle excitement embraced by the studious people who dedicate their lives to it. Safety experts are like the microbiologists of the business world. What they are focused on may seem small to others but, ultimately, it is the foundation for everything else. No business can expect to last or grow if any aspect of its product is unsafe. Inevitably, they will get caught out. Just as the smallest microbe can kill a giant elephant, so too can a safety hazard kill a business if it is not found and dealt with appropriately.

Enthusiasm is pretty contagious. All it takes is a few charismatic people to explain the importance of a particular safety procedure for the seeds of enthusiasm to be planted inside people’s heads.


Safety is Training

Still, if everybody in your business - including yourself - is struggling to get enthusiastic about safety, then you could always look for outside help.

Training courses and outside motivational speakers are common in the world of sales. This style of business monologue is so well known that it has even found itself in the world of cinema several times and can be both profane and profound. What is often overlooked though is that there are many people out there who can deliver passionate safety training and safety talks for businesses as well.

You don’t need to wait until something goes wrong until you get a third party to help you with safety. Instead, you can aim for better, and motivate your staff to do better, by nipping any problems in bud with safety training and a motivational safety speaker.


Safety is Ambition

In many businesses, staff are motivated through sales targets.

Good sales are rewarded and bad sales are not. However, not enough businesses reward their staff for meeting safety targets. In fact, the very idea of a “safety target” might even seem strange. But staff should be ambitious about reaching safety targets in the same way that they are about sales targets. After all, the safety industry is full of people who set themselves ambitious targets.

Matt Grierson, the president of SEMA and a big player in the business of health and safety, said that “the safety job’s not done until the industry becomes a zero-accident place to work”. This sort of safety ambition should be celebrated in the same way that sales ambition is in order to motivate your staff.


Safer business are more mature, more profitable, more enthusiastic, more ambitious, better trained, and better lead than their rivals.

People - whether they be customers, employees, or investors - are the bedrock of all business. If they are not safe, or if they do not feel safe, then business does not happen.

Motivate your staff for safety and take your business to the next level.

About the Author


Justin O’Sullivan is a safety writer and businessman. As the founder of SEMA Racking Inspections, he is a SEMA approved racking inspector who provides the highest quality racking inspection training in South East England.

TOP