Take a good look around your plant or facility. If yours is like most American workplaces these days, you're looking at a mini United Nations -- people from vastly different cultures, many which may have been born outside the U.S. and who are trying to incorporate into our culture and way of life. You can observe the same phenomenon if you walk into your children's schools, the waiting room at your doctor's office or simply walking around town to our restaurants, stores or shopping malls. A robust influx of newcomers to our shores is changing the American landscape, both at work and throughout our society. It's an exciting development that provides new opportunities -- new people bring new ideas, new sounds, new friendships, new beliefs, and even new tastes (have you noticed the many ethnic foods on your grocery store shelves lately?). But as you strive to develop and implement a strong health, safety, and environmental program, the differences among these employees can sometimes be daunting. These differences can bring a broad range of attitudes, beliefs, and values that challenge, or even impede your HS&E efforts. In our experience at Topf, we've found that quite the opposite can be true: The diversity within your workforce can be harnessed to your advantage, with a stronger safety process, and a more unified workforce to show for it. Essential to any effective safety initiative is a workforce that understands the risks, the rules, sees the steps management is taking, and comprehends its own responsibility in preventing accidents, injuries, and environmental incidents. Taken together, these things contribute to achieving a common vision. Whether that vision is identified as "zero accidents," "accident elimination," "no one hurt," etc. the point is the same. We've learned that visualizing and striving toward a common goal can be an enormously unifying experience for employees, especially those who have little else in common in terms of background and shared cultural ties. These benefits go beyond the safety issues into areas like moral, productivity and other essential elements in running and managing a profitable organization.

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