Asking questions about health and safety at work should be commonplace in a workplace culture that values safety. Management should actively listen to what employees are saying and take what they hear seriously. To help the business learn from accidents and incidents, employees should feel comfortable reporting them. Harnessing a positive safety culture can have a massive effect on the wellbeing of your entire workforce, as well as your bottom line. Not only will your company see an improvement in safety performance, but it will also benefit from improved employee retention and productivity.
What is a Safety Culture?
A safety culture goes beyond adhering to the rules and responsibilities to simply comply with regulations or tick boxes. Without a doubt, the essential foundational elements of your safety program are extremely important, but unfortunately, they often exclude one vital element: employee engagement. What does "safety culture" actually mean? In an organisation that has successfully implemented a safety culture most of the workforce share the safety vision and see the value being achieved by it. Priority is placed on safety beliefs, values, and attitudes. Every employee in a safety culture company should put worker safety first in order to succeed.
What are the Benefits of a Safety Culture?
The adoption of a safety culture achieves more than a reduction in workplace incidents. Employees are more likely to act sensibly and safely in an emergency, for starters. When a company prioritizes safety above all else, the skills and procedures employed in regular operations apply in an emergency, when it can matter most. Here are some of the benefits that can be achieved from a safety culture:
- Less absenteeism since fit and healthy people are more likely to show up for work.
- Lower salary costs because there aren't additional expenses for overtime and sick leave to fill in the gaps.
- A happy workforce - employees will be happier if they feel safe and secure at work.
- Lower staff turnover if workers don't feel that the going is tough
How to Implement a Strong Safety Culture?
Here are some key elements to achieving a strong safety culture:
Accountability: Set health & safety KPIs and assign them cleverly to all employees, making sure they’re relevant for their roles. This sends a clear signal to employees that safety is as, if not more important as other KPIs they’re being targeted against. This empowers employees to take ownership of their own and others safety behaviour and performance.
Engagement: In the past, safety has been notoriously difficult to get employees to engage with. But the world has changed and there is now much more knowledge around the importance of workplace wellbeing, including everyone’s health and safety. Encourage employees to take a pro-active role in safety, whether that be through a buddy-system or in regular meetings that call out safety champions and request feedback. Learn more on how to engage your workforce in your safety culture here.
Leadership: A top-down approach is the only way to implement a positive safety culture. If leaders don’t walk-the-walk, then employees won’t bother either. For safety initiatives to have credibility they need to be communicated and followed through, right from the C-Suite.
Training: When it comes to safety training, adopt a blended approach that allows employees some control over timing and offers mixed mediums to make sure it sinks in for different types of learners. Every employee is different, and they like to learn in different ways. Therefore, safety initiatives should maintain simple and clear messaging spread across multiple channels.
If you would like to learn more about the steps to implementing a strong safety culture, this article can help.
What Does a Poor Safety Culture Look Like?
The UK's HSE delves into poor safety cultures here describing them as having "widespread, routine procedural violations" as well as a failure on the company part to comply with their own safety management system. As well as this they point towards a culture where top-level decisions put cost or productivity before safety and the wellbeing of staff. They provide a 7-part question set that offers guidance to companies looking to improve their safety culture.
Alternatively, connect with us in EcoOnline to see how software can help you implement a safety management system that empowers employees to easily engage and put their wellbeing first. We would be happy to demonstrate how over 7,000 other customers have improved their safety performances with our software. Request a demo here.