Once an accident happens, it's too late to think about prevention; you're too busy dealing with the aftermath. The measure of a truly safe workplace, then, are the steps taken to prevent problems — and that goes beyond establishing a PPE program or putting posters on the wall. Andrew Gilman, manager of marketing and communications for Behavioral Science Technology in Ojai, Calif., says it's about creating a culture that doesn't tolerate injury.

Mean it — Once senior leaders have made the commitment to a culture shift, they have to back it up and set the tone for the rest of the company. “What does leadership do to send the message that this is important?” Gilman says. “Do they visit sites? Do they look at audits?” That also means eliminating any gaps between what's said and what's done. “If you say safety is Number One, your actions can't tell employees that production is actually Number One,” he says.

Own it — Employees have to feel encouraged to get involved, and the chances of that increase when the zero-injury culture has earned credibility and begun to spread. “You have to leverage the fact that no one wants to get hurt,” Gilman says. “Whatever gets implemented, employees should really be a huge part of that.”

Track it — Quantifying safe work practices — instead of just recording injuries — rounds out the approach. Monitor tasks to determine how they can be done safely, and then track them. “There's a direct correlation between incident rates and how safe people are working,” Gilman says. “And that's the kind of data you want to watch.”