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What It Takes to Create a Culture of Safety

Health & Wellness |  5.19.2021
Now that businesses are emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic, safety has never been more important. For us, safety means more than enforcing social distancing and sanitation measures throughout our facilities. It means more than food that has been properly procured, stored, and handled on its way to the consumer. It’s also more than preventing falls, back injuries, and distracted driving among our employees.

Across our business, safety means engaging leaders at all levels, empowering associates to speak up and stop unsafe work, and demonstrating that we care about their personal health and wellbeing. With our Safety Assurance in Food and Environments (SAFE) program and global safety policy, we have long made safety a part of everything we do for our people, our customers, and the communities we serve. Ensuring the safety of our teams comes down to the choices we all make every day and how our workplace culture supports those in-the-moment decisions.

"We have to win the hearts and minds of the organization, help people understand why our safety measures are important, and develop regular habits to support safe outcomes—so they do the right thing, without thinking about it."
- Todd Gardner, Vice President, Safety & Risk Control, Operations Support
“In an organization this large, with thousands of sites and tens of thousands of employees, there is no way we can dictate what happens from the center,” explains Todd Gardner, Vice President, Safety & Risk Control, Operations Support. “We have to win the hearts and minds of the organization, help people understand why our safety measures are important, and develop regular habits to support safe outcomes—so they do the right thing, without thinking about it.”

That’s why we foster an “every-moment-every-day” mindset, one that extends to every kitchen, warehouse, office, or truck. As we reopen operations to customers, we’re welcoming associates back into this culture of safety.

A SAFE Foundation

According to Patrick Davey, Vice President, Environmental, Health & Safety, an effective safety culture boils down to three questions: “Do we have a clear vision? Do we have leadership walking the walk? And finally, do our teams have the tools to succeed?”

In our case, the vision is simple. We call it Target Zero: no harm to our people, consumers, or the environment.

To achieve our Target Zero vision, we are guided by the Aramark SAFE™ Management System, a framework for operating safely, managing risk, and reaching our food, occupational, and environmental safety goals.

As for leadership, we rely on managers, supervisors, and executives to steward our safety culture throughout the enterprise. When they lead by example, it shows that everyone’s wellbeing matters.

Safety best practices are even more likely to stick if our associates understand the “why.” From the moment they are hired, employees engage in a rigorous pattern of training that ladders up to the bigger picture. We also seek their input as our safety culture evolves.

A true sign of progress is when frontline behaviors influence and mirror those at the center of the organization. “We know why we ask folks to do certain safety tasks. But we have to tie it directly to what we’re trying to accomplish,” Gardner says. “Shoes for Crews and Good Save are two of many safety initiatives that showcase our 360-degree approach.”

Reducing Slips: Shoes for Crews

A fundamental aspect of workplace safety is preventing slips and falls, especially in the kitchen, where floors can become wet with liquids or grease. But sometimes employees struggle to afford the most reliable safety tool: a good pair of shoes.

To this end, we’ve partnered with Shoes for Crews to put slip-resistant shoes on all our frontline associates. The free or discounted footwear is safe, comfortable, and fashionable—and makes all the difference in preventing slip injuries.

The success of Shoes for Crews exemplifies how having the right equipment can make all the difference for workplace safety—and employee morale.

So far, we’ve distributed pairs to about 50,000 U.S. employees through Shoes for Crews. Next up, we’ll do the same in Canada. “A workplace injury can change someone’s life in an instant,” Davey states. “Our teams, particularly those who may have limited resources, can’t thank us enough for providing high-quality footwear to do their jobs safely. When people dress professionally, they feel better about their work.”

Spotting Hazards Before They Happen: Good Save

When safety is engrained in a workplace culture, employees feel empowered to intervene in any situation in which they feel unsafe. Ireland is the setting for one of our most engaging ways of involving employees in the safety conversation. By enhancing the Good Save program as part of our new EverSafeTM platform, associates can identify issues—related to occupational, food, and COVID-19 safety—directly from a mobile device.

Good Save encourages employees to recognize and fix hazards in the moment and to elevate them to the management team. People can even upload a photo that illustrates the safety issue. Each Good Save report generates a work order for front-line management, driving further accountability.

"The bottom line is that our people are our most valuable asset, and we owe it to them to provide a safe workplace. We are creating a culture of care that manifests itself in how we educate, train, motivate, and empower our associates across the globe.”
- Allan Fernandes, Vice President, Global Safety & Risk Control

“It’s an all-in, proactive approach to keeping our environments safe,” shares John Caponiti, Vice President, Safety & Risk Control, Operations Support. “We can always investigate events after they happen. But this way, we have more people looking for hazards, capturing them, and resolving them before someone gets hurt.”

The Good Save mobile platform is being used across Ireland and has yielded more than 5,600 “saves” to date. The program comes full circle when leaders recognize employees for their contributions—and for preventing a hazard that might harm themselves, a coworker, or customer.

A Business Imperative

Workplace safety is an ongoing journey marked by “micro-evolutions,” as Caponiti puts it. We know we’ll never truly reach an end. This knowledge allows us to maintain a strong continuous-improvement mindset that has transcended throughout the pandemic.

Today’s businesses want to know not only how we manage safety risks, but how we are going to help them reopen and stay open. “Safety is on the minds of everyone, to the point of being the price of entry for new business,” says Davey. “It’s just one more way we can align with clients’ values and strategic objectives.”

Our SAFE principles gave us a strong foundation to address the new normal. In the past year we’ve ramped up our safety trainings with new, engaging formats designed for the different ways people learn. The challenge is to operationalize these new COVID-19-related trainings while retaining the food and occupational safety basics.

If there’s a silver lining, it’s that the pandemic has elevated the conversation around shaping a safety culture. “People understand we’ve created a system of safety measures that drive continuous improvement, and that you can’t pull the pieces apart,” Gardner adds.

An Ongoing Journey

We’re now in the 13th year of continual safety improvement across our North American operations. When 97% of recently surveyed consumers report feeling safe in our cafés, we know we remain on the right track.

But the greatest reward is knowing that safety is engrained into our daily operations. When our people know we care about them and their safety, they are empowered to do their best in every moment.

"The bottom line is that our people are our most valuable asset, and we owe it to them to provide a safe workplace,” adds Allan Fernandes, Vice President, Global Safety & Risk Control. “We are creating a culture of care that manifests itself in how we educate, train, motivate, and empower our associates across the globe.”