Let’s make workplace safety a priority in Florida

Workplace safety is essential, and the need is apparent in Florida as workplace fatalities continue to rise.

According to the Florida Chamber Safety Council’s recent Florida’s Status on Health, Safety and Sustainability Research Report, in 2020, Florida’s workplace fatality rate per 100,000 workers landed at 3.08, just ahead of the United States’ overall rate of 3.23. And between 2011 and 2020, Florida had a total of 713 construction fatalities.

This needs to change – and such change can happen if business leaders embrace the need to develop a safety culture that emphasizes personal accountability.

There is a misunderstanding among business leaders that investing in a safety culture will generate an unnecessary cost – and that it won’t bring an immediate return on investment. But what they are overlooking is the long-term savings that can result from fewer accidents, increased productivity and other benefits. Just think about the 275 workplace fatalities that occurred in Florida in 2020 that could have been avoided.

To create a safety culture, a company must commit to prioritizing health and security. But this commitment to safety cannot exist if a company fails to closely monitor its potential vulnerabilities. Its leaders must develop an intense focus on critical safety processes, and that takes planning. As the saying goes, “What is inspected is not neglected.”

We all come to work to provide for ourselves and our families, and our friends and loved ones expect to see us return home the same way we left that morning. Personal accountability means that everyone makes safety a key part of their job and their responsibility. But it should not lead to negative actions such as finger-pointing or punishment.

It is the role of every employee to have a strong sense of personal accountability for the safe operation of their work location, their personal safety and the safety of their coworkers. Business leaders can develop personal accountability by serving as role models while acknowledging and updating the expected safe working behaviors. When leaders model, acknowledge and reward employees for safe work habits, employees are more likely to be motivated to adopt these practices  – and they are more likely to have a sense of investment in ensuring their workplaces stay safe.

To create a true safety culture, everyone must take ownership of their actions and decisions, and accountability can be reinforced by personal values, as well as by leaders and coworkers. A sense of accountability can motivate employees to pay even greater attention to detail – and that alone can result in fewer accidents and incidents. To build this sense of accountability, employees must act out of empathy for their coworkers to keep them safe from injury.

Leaders can demonstrate their commitment to a safe culture by encouraging employees to ask themselves the following questions:

  • What are the critical steps in my job?
  • What is the worst thing that could happen while performing my job?
  • How can I prevent that “worst thing” from happening?
  • How do the people around me demonstrate their commitment to safety?
  • Do I believe that all safety incidents – injuries, near-misses, etc. – can be prevented?
  • If I could make one safety improvement, what would it be?

Our words and actions project our commitment. People will never know safety is important to you if you do not talk about it – and reinforce it – with one another.

Prioritizing a safety culture must go deeper than checking off boxes to remain in compliance. It emphasizes the importance of employee awareness and the responsibility to be their own safety advocates.

But in order to change an organization from the inside out, the process itself must start from the top down. If executives and managers act in ways that show the importance of personal accountability, they will see the ripple effect in the form of greater safety awareness throughout the organization.

The Florida Chamber Safety Council is working to influence and provide additional tools to employers to support creating a safety culture through personal accountability. Join the movement to make Florida the safest, healthiest and most sustainable state in America.

Visit to see how you can make a difference.

Jody McClure is the senior director of risk management and insurance for ABC Fine Wine & Spirits. She is a member of the Florida Chamber Safety Council.

*Originally published with the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.