According to a study conducted by the HSE, “The safety culture of an organization is the product of individual and group values, attitudes, perceptions, competencies, and patterns of behavior that determine the commitment to, and the style and proficiency of, an organizations health and safety management”.
In simpler terms, safety culture can primarily be referred to as the way things are done in your workplace.
Changing the safety culture of an organization can be difficult and is not a simple task. However, safety culture stands as a pillar in your overall health and safety programme and is vital for the success of all health and safety related achievements. To do so, steps must be put in place to alter the attitudes, behaviors and norms of the organization's employees.
Commitment and CommunicationBoth are key aspects to a successful and positive safety culture in the workplace. Firstly, commitment is an essential element that requires an organization's top management to commit to safe operations. To do so, approach with facts and statistics. Present top management with tangible benefits which they can see a return on their investment e.g employee welfare, reduction in absenteeism, better reporting and a clearer picture of current issues. Approach with clear and reachable goals. Ideally, you would like to have a commitment to ensuring ZERO harm within all operations and a promise that everything will be done for all employees and contractors (see also permit to work) to go home safely.
Communication across all levels can aid the transition to a safer workplace culture. A great way to increase safety communication is to hold regular safety talks on topical and relevant safety news in your industry. Real-life examples of the consequence of poor safety culture can often catch the attention of some. Making your company safety policy readily available to your employees, can help with the implementation of expectations and best practices when it comes to the completion of safe work.
Lead by exampleIt is paramount that you lead by example; following all safety policies will engage your employees and encourage them to do the same. If management are willing to commit to safety, employees will follow suit. Employee buy-in is crucial to have a positive safety culture. Implement a clear accountability process can aid a positive safety culture. By having responsible persons for health and safety procedures can help with accountability and promote the metrics of leading by example. An example of this would be the capabilities of dealing with a crisis and learning from them through strong safety culture.
Organizations with strong safety cultures understand that emergencies and incidents could occur at any time and have robust systems in place to immediately deal with them. They have effective methods of communicating those incidents internally and have the methodologies and the know-how to investigate and understand their root causes. Most importantly, they lead by example by learning from these incidents and ensuring it never happens again.
Take a look at our 5 Ways to Engage your Co-workers in Health and Safety article for more tips.
Develop and Implement a Positive Reporting Process
Developing a positive association with reporting health and safety issues in essential to improving your organizations safety culture. One way to promote this is to develop an appraisal system by rewarding employees who report safety hazards (physical hazards, chemical hazards, mental hazards) or concerns. A positive safety culture will be much easier to build and maintain when employees feel comfortable reporting concerns and believe that the reporting process is positive. Facilitating employees to engage in good catch or near miss reporting can prevent serious incidents occurring.
Companies with strong safety cultures are open to change and are always seeking the best way to ensure that safety management is done in the most efficient way. These organizations research technologies such as, incident reporting, behavioral observations, accident investigations, training and many more, to determine which could provide the best return on investment.
Investment in training employees in health and safety policies and correct techniques demonstrates your commitment to safety. Effective safety cultures require strong health and safety competencies. This must begin immediately when the employee joins the organization and is on-boarded, and again during refresher training and updating skills. Trained employees also embrace safety culture more readily because they are aware of hazards and the effect that they can have on maintaining workplace safety.
In addition to having good technical competencies, providing training from supervisors puts a strong emphasis on leadership, initiative and an out-of-the-box style of thinking. To ensure their safety culture is consistently maintained, you must ensure that supervisors have the right leadership attributes to coach their staff and to maintain the correct safety behavior.
Building and maintaining safety culture starts from the ground up. Another way to build strong employee buy-in is to involve them in the process. Establishing a safety committee with employees from all areas of your organization can ensure different opinions and issues are raised. The group decisions from health and safety committees have a big influence on the overall direction of the organization when it comes to safety initiatives. Some of the more established committees make decisions on how and where health and safety budgets are required to be spent. Contribution of individuals are noted, and action items are designated to individuals within the committee itself for follow ups. Good management and frequency are vital for the success of the committee. Do you need help getting started?
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