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Ronn Lehmann, a business consultant and motivational speaker, addresses workplace safety during a breakout session at the Northern Region Association of Safety Professionals Conference on Dec. 3 at the Delta Hotel in Fargo. Image: Andrew Weeks/Prairie Business

Make safety a priority within your business 

FARGO, N.D. — People sat at tables, some of them with eye patches, artificial limbs, and scarred bodies — the victims of workplace accidents. 

The takeaway: If safety isn’t the core value of your business, you might need to rethink your organization. 

Accidents happen, of course, even when safety measures are followed — but the chances of such things happening are much less than when safety rules are ignored. 

Just ask Ronn Lehmann. Though he has all of his limbs intact, he has met a number of people who have been permanently changed by workplace accidents.  

Lehmann, a business consultant and motivational speaker, spoke to business professionals and employees during the Northern Region Association of Safety Professionals Conference. The two-day conference, held Dec. 3-4 at the Delta Hotel in Fargo, included participants from across the region. 

In one breakout session during the first day of the conference, Lehmann emphasized how every person in an organization, whether senior manager or new employee, plays an integral part in workplace safety. But how much priority a person or organization places on safety stems from several influences and values, both within the workplace and without: culture, money and mindset, to name a few. Much of Lehmann’s focus was on “mindset" issues. 

“To be successful at anything, you need the right mindset, skill set and tool set,” he said. “Of these, mindset is the biggest determinant of success or failure.” 

Why? Because mindsets drive behaviors. “So,” he explained, “if you want to change behaviors you have to change mindsets.”

To emphasize his point, he shared six reasons people may not work safely:

  1. Don’t know what to do
  2. Don’t know how
  3. Don’t have the tools
  4. Don’t want to
  5. Think they are working safely; and
  6. Don’t think they have to

Training goes only so far because it only addresses the “how” issue. Of the other five, he said, four are mindset issues. But how do you change mindset? 

One suggestion for business leaders is to consider the culture of their organization. 

Culture can be effective promoting core values such as safety, but it also can, unintentionally, deemphasize safety if it is not one of the main values of the company.

Lehmann said culture is created by individuals and not organizations, and often is learned by what is rewarded and punished within a company. In a nutshell, he said, culture is comprised of its values and those of the individuals working there. 

“What is the core value of your organization?” he asked,noting for some companies there might be dilemmas if safety isn’t its core value.  

If an organization values both safety and productivity, for instance, what happens when they collide? “If productivity wins, it can lead to cutting corners on safety and taking risks,” he said. “If safety wins, it can lead to schedule delays and budget problems.”

A lot of intricate things are at play, but in the end following safety rules isn’t rocket science. It may take time, but the good thing is that culture can be amended and, in turn, so can mindsets. Lehmann offered business leaders and employees some suggestions with the aim of bringing more safety to the workplace: 

Check your values. What’s important to you? If safety is a core value for you at home, it should also be a core value to you in the workplace. 

Be an example. Everyone, including you, are in a position to influence safety in the workplace by conduct, example, and encouraging others. If you see someone who is not being safe, speak up or report it to your supervisor. 

Communicate, communicate, communicate. Communication starts at the top down, but everyone in a business setting should openly communicate with each other about safety procedures. Everyone should know what is expected of them. 

Company leaders need to set the example. They need to talk openly and frequently about safety in the workplace or on the job site, and they need to follow up to make sure safety rules are continually being followed. Managers need to set the example for their employees by following those same rules and staying true to the company’s safety standards in all situations and at all times, he said.