The term, “Culture of Safety” seems to be at the forefront of EMS blogs and discussions. Every time you log onto a social media page or check out an EMS publication, it seems we’re always talking about a near-miss or a motor vehicle collision involving an ambulance. Unfortunately, the implementation of safety devices on our ambulances is often seen as a punitive measure; an easy way to bring disciplinary action or terminations against our staff.
However, if implemented correctly, these programs can make for a worthwhile investment – in both life and operational savings. All while helping change the public perception of EMS from a cadre of drivers willing to drive as fast and reckless as possible to get a patient to the hospital to an industry that values safety of both their patients and community first and foremost.
New to the idea of a culture of safety? Or perhaps it’s been on your radar for a while, but you haven’t figure out how to try create a sustainable plan to get there? Here are five tips that helped me successfully create and nurture the culture we wanted at Thorne Ambulance.
1. Develop the Culture Through Openness
I’m in my eighth year as an EMS Director; and if there’s one thing I can share with you, it’s this: You have to be open and honest with your staff. When you make the decision to implement a culture of safety within your organization, it’s imperative that you maintain a position of honesty through the entire process. Explain to your staff what you’re doing, why you’re doing it and how the program and/or process will be used. Outline the benefits of bringing in a behavior-modifying tool such as Road Safety. Otherwise, you may be labeled as a “Big Brother.”
2. Bring in an Outsider – They Will Listen to Anyone but You!
Whenever you seek to create a culture change, sometimes it’s best to bring in a real professional. When an “outsider” is able to come in and share real-life examples of the dangers facing our crews, they’ll often listen. This also reinforces what you’re telling your team. Videos, real stories, articles, etc., all help to drive the point. Consistent exposure to the culture you want will transform your organization.
3. Front Office Obligations
While your staff are adjusting to the idea of using a tool like Road Safety, your front office staff need to run the numbers. Get an idea of what your current risk looks like (for example, the frequency of collisions, the number of driving complaints you receive, etc.). Then, take a look at what you are spending in repairs and maintenance. Having this information available is critical to obtaining a true evaluation of Road Safety implementation.
4. Trial Period
Never go “live” right away. You and your team need an opportunity to understand what that little blue box is doing. Turn off the alarms! Allow your staff to operate as they have, giving them an opportunity to evaluate their current standing as a driver.
5. Post-Implementation Evaluation. Once you elect to turn on the alarm (30, 60, 90 days after implementation), you are sure to see a major improvement in the driving abilities of your EMTs and Paramedics. Each month, you have the ability to generate a report card that will assist your staff in understanding their score. In addition, your front office staff will be grinning ear to ear, as they continue to see the cost of repairs decrease.
Check out the recording of our June webinar where I shared our agency’s journey. We used Road Safety to not only change our community’s perception of us but to also boost our crews’ belief that we were committed to a culture of safety. Given our successes in safety and cost savings, I promise that this will be time well spent!