Safety culture and leadership in the era of diversity, equity, and inclusion

Why DEI practices need to be included while building safety systems

Safety culture and leadership in the era of diversity, equity, and inclusion
Nikhil Rattan

Safety culture and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are starting to become interdependent and related concepts that are essential for creating a safe and healthy work environment. Safety leadership refers to the actions and decisions of those in leadership positions to promote and maintain safe workplaces. DEI refers to the practices and policies that promote the fair representation and participation of all types of individuals and groups and provide equal possible outcomes for every individual.

A strong safety culture is built on the foundation of open communication, mutual trust, and active engagement of all employees within the workplace. This, now more than ever, includes actively promoting diversity of thought and addressing any biases or discrimination that may occur with the hope of creating an environment where all employees feel comfortable reporting any safety concerns or issues.

Creating a safe environment for diverse individuals involves actively addressing and dismantling systems of oppression, such as racism, sexism, and homophobia. With today’s evolving workforce and modalities of work it is critical that those in leadership look at safety systems with a DEI lens and create programs and procedures that have equity in mind.

For example, asking a simple question such as – “Who was this designed by, for, with and without?” while developing a safety plan or procedure is a simple yet effective way in embedding the equity mindset into a prescriptive development task. In addition, creating safe spaces at work where employees feel psychologically safe and can express honest impressions, thoughts, and attitudes without the fear of ridicule is foundational for organizations to thrive going forward.

Effective communication is also key to promoting a culture of safety and inclusion within the workplace. This means actively seeking out and listening to the perspectives and concerns of all employees and addressing any issues (including the most sensitive ones) that may arise.

Creating this type of culture and mindset within a workforce can be a challenging process for many organizations since it requires a high level of commitment and cross engagement between various teams. Nevertheless, the time has come for leaders to incorporate DEI promotion practices into their safety strategy to build physically and psychologically safe workplaces.