Debut author Schultz and Fielkow’s (Driving to Perfection, 2014) book delves into the process of setting up and maintaining a strong safety culture in the workplace.
One of the most cherished business truisms is that safety and productivity are mutually exclusive goals: improve one and the other will go down in quality. Schultz and Fielkow, in this densely written work, argue that this doesn’t have to be the case and that a well-designed, top-down safety culture can maximize both aspects. They present a plan for developing such a culture and for keeping it strong in the face of inevitable erosion, which the authors describe as “normalization of deviance”—the tendency of employees, over time, to get comfortable with skipping safety precautions. The authors begin by stressing that only a company that already has a healthy overall culture can make safe practices a value rather than a priority; priorities can change, they say, but values are set in bedrock. They also clarify that safety policies show employees that executives are putting their well-being first, which helps them to become more invested in the company and their work. The authors describe in detail the basic requirements for building such an environment, along with challenges to expect. In the book’s second part, they begin with a case study and then go into more specific steps for creating a safety culture, with a focus on how to get employees involved with and committed to the new system. Schultz and Fielkow provide some innovative and clever ways to get frontline staff on board with new safety initiatives (such as a “CEO for a day” exercise) and even suggest ideas for getting employees’ families involved in the company culture. The book’s language can be a bit dry and convoluted (“Engaged people vested in the organizational success is the hardest component for a competitor to replicate”). However, stories from the authors’ own experiences help to enliven the text; Fielkow, for instance, owns a transportation company, and the authors provide a lot of examples of how he implemented ideas outlined in the book.
A valuable read for executives and small-business owners looking to establish a healthy company culture with a safe work environment.