Driving Cultural Change at the Crosswalk

Oct 24, 2017
Ideas & Insights
By Mike Smargiassi

Creating a zero injury workplace requires the commitment of every employee. That certainly makes sense but some corporations employ thousands of individuals. So how can you influence the behavior of so many people and drive the cultural change needed to create a safety culture? Buy-in is crucial but success can only occur when employees are willing to hold their colleagues accountable.

A couple of weeks ago I arrived at a client site, parked my car in the lot and started walking across the street to the office building. As I was in the middle of the street I heard my name and noticed a senior manager in the crosswalk. He was politely motioning to me that I too should be utilizing the crosswalk.  My initial reaction was hey I’m from New York – this is what we do. There were no cars in sight and I had looked before crossing. All was fine.

If you are a New Yorker or a visitor to the City take a look up and down the street when the traffic light changes and you will see a lot of jaywalkers. The reality is jaywalking is part of the culture of New York and having worked in the City for the past 20 years it became part of me. I followed the crowd. The crosswalk is a simple concept. A set of white lines designed to create a safety zone to funnel pedestrians across roadways at a set location and at a specific time if there is a street light present. It creates an expected and recurring process for both pedestrians and drivers, with the goal of improving everyone’s safety. Why not use it?

At the company I was visiting safety is at the top of their core values and driving cultural change across the organization to ensure interdependent safety behavior is an ongoing commitment and priority. For those not familiar with the Bradley Curve, Interdependent safety behavior is when employees feel ownership for safety, and take responsibility for themselves and others. The key here is proactively looking out for the safety of others, and that is exactly what this manager was doing for me. He truly led by his example and sought to hold me accountable to the same safety culture. So it’s no wonder his organization is achieving great success as it zeroes in on an injury-free workplace. While I was just a visitor at the company, when I’m there I know I’m part of this organization.  I need to support their safety culture, which requires the buy-in and participation of everyone. That means using the crosswalk.