Can hard hat color improve Safety Culture?

Many companies differentiate PPE color of safety staffs from rest of the team and think any employee can find safety professionals easily in their areas and employees talk to improve safety with them.

Tactically it’s seemed right and good idea because Company paid money for different PPEs and put attention on Safety professionals, representatives or committee members… Last 8 years, I didn’t hear that since the color is changed, we’ve enhanced the communication with employees but received complains what happen at back of the stage:

  • Employees feel uncomfortable when red hat (safety officer) visits to his area. Especially it happens where company has blame-full or immature safety culture for incident… Oh shit, he is coming, am I doing something wrong? Run & Hide…
  • Some safety professionals feel harassed or ranked. Why am I wearing this strange color? Am I different than the others? Why people run away when I want to walk and talk? Do I look like cop?
  • I don’t want disturb employees and sometimes just want to bypass this area
  • Safety professionals wear nice red hats, fancy glasses and their PPE quality looks good. Why floor employees couldn’t use it?
  • I want to give a message to employees “I’m same with you and let’s talk”. But my different color of PPE gives them a message that “Safety professional is not one of you, he belongs to different class”. I feel isolation…

I understand different color of hat for emergency team or green hat for new employee, but it is dispute for Safety professionals.

Now we wear same uniform and PPE with employees and it gives a message  that “we’re same and one team”. Similarity connects people, not differential. Even Directors wear same color as floor mechanics and I remember years ago, at smoking point new mechanic asked me “who is that guy, I’ve made awesome talk with him about manual handling a minute ago” and I replied “oh, he is our Executive Director”, then he shocked and told me “Wow, fantastic. He… he just looks like me…by the way my name is *** and this is my first day. Just finalized safety induction for new employee and May I know your name?” I said “Sure, my name is Ganjiguur Bukhbat, Manager of HSE Department at your service and how can I help you?”…

Questions for discussion:

  • Can hard hat Color change Culture?
  • Does employees really need to be disturbed about who is walking at their workplaces?
  • How many color codes should employees remember to identify the ranks? (excluding legislated color codes of electrical and piping)
  • If everyone owns safety, should employees find safety professionals?

Ganjiguur Bukhbat from his LinkedIn: