With thirteen diverse business units in Europe alone, you’d think Eco-Bat group have an impossible challenge on their hands delivering a coherent safety culture change programme.

But Andy Banks, head of HSE at Eco-Bat, has a few tricks up his sleeve to keep employees safe while they extract, manufacture and recycle metal from batteries at the world’s largest producer of lead.

“Our acquisitions in 1994 meant we’ve had to meld together state-owned, private and multi-national companies in seven countries… all with distinct brands, different legal requirements and unique cultures.”

Safe for Life

Safe for life logo
The engine behind safety culture change at Eco-Bat is their Safe for Life programme, an idea that germinated during a communications workshop:

“I’d been mulling it over in my mind for a while, then a light turned on. I realised that communication was going to be the key to moving the idea forward.”

Eco-Bat started by evaluating communications across the whole Eco-Bat group: where they were and where they needed to be. And with help from JOMC partners Hill Solomon they put a safety brand together.

“I wanted to link everyone together under a common theme: come to work, work safely and go home safely to enjoy life. It expresses vitality, life and enjoyment. Whichever site you go to whether it’s Austria, Germany, France, Italy or the UK, what you see is the Safe for Life brand.”

Run your programme like a campaign

Safe for Life benefits from the features of a good marketing campaign. That’s brand identity and a consistent message:

“You’ve got to think of it like an advertising campaign, like selling a gadget or a car. You’ve got to grab their [employees] attention, make them read your poster and give them something to think about.”

So marketing becomes the wrapper for your safety culture change message. With slogans that ingrain themselves in the collective conscious of your employees.’ Like ‘speak up’ or ‘never walk past an accident about to happen’. As Andy points out:

“Safety can be seen as being dull and boring. You need to capture attention with catchy phrases… Use whatever tools you have available to attract people and put a message across about safety. Hook them in and sell them something. Get them to take notice.”

Two workers in a factory with Safe for life logos on their hard-hats, in the background is a forklift truck with a driverThe Safe for Life branding appears on:

  • display screens at Eco-Bat plants
  • handbooks for employees
  • posters near entrances
  • stuck on safety helmets
  • sewn into uniforms

Ensuring the message gets seen by employees everywhere they go.

Surely one-size can’t fit all?

With such a diverse group of companies across the world, you’d be right to think that a ‘one-size fits all’ approach to safety culture change might need some flexibility. So how do individual companies solve local safety issues?

“Buy-in is critical. They [Eco-Bat business units] take up the initiative and run Safe for Life themselves. They own it and come up with new ideas to make it better because each unit has their own safety problems…”

Companies get involved in the language translation of Safe for Life material too. So concepts, themes and underlying messages preserve their meaning and relevance at a local level. JOMC were also drafted in to do culture assessments and culture change workshops to meet those local needs.

But as Andy points out: “… there are still common [safety] problems across the whole group.” And it’s in spotting these common problems that Eco-Bat learn and share through Safe for Life.

How IT helps you along the way

Like many large multi-national companies, Eco-Bat use a web-based reporting system to monitor accidents and near-misses. It’s the oil that lubricates the wheels of Safe for Life and gives Andy a consistent view across every individual business unit.

Accident reporting systems help you use your time more efficiently. They handle the legwork of capturing your data then spot emerging patterns in accidents or near-misses at your organisation.

That leaves you free to learn from mistakes and preempt accidents before they happen again. They assist you with new opportunities to have better quality conversations about safety in the workplace.

Brand power

Excerpt from Safe for life employee manualWhen you establish a powerful and easily-recognised brand it creates scope for new opportunities. And Safe for Life is no exception:

“Safety is integral to everyday activities, not just at work but at home too. We could use Safe for Life to promote healthy living through exercise and health eating for example … take it beyond the workplace.”

By unleashing the power of advertising and marketing, suddenly your investment in a safety culture change programme becomes an even more powerful vehicle for changing values, attitudes and beliefs.

This article was written by Chris Kenworthy