Negative Safety Culture: The 7 Not-So-Deadly Sins

Negative Safety Culture: The 7 Not-So-Deadly Sins

Published June 30, 2021

3 minute read

When it comes to your workplace safety culture there are negative behaviours that can creep in over time. It takes a conscious strategic effort from top management to ensure a positive safety culture. We count down the 7 not-so-deadly sins of health and safety in the workplace, so you can easily establish if you have a problem on your hands.


Instead of reporting an incident, even one that repeats itself, the attitude of ignoring it and just keep on working is a common problem for health and safety professionals.

“Being backstage at a small theatre I noticed there was no aluminous tape to guide someone downstairs which had no light during a performance but was being used. When I asked a stagehand about it, he explained it was really dangerous and he had fallen twice, almost seriously hurting himself. When I asked if he reported it I was told he never thought of it.”

In 2014/15 around half as many workers were fatally injured compared to 20 years ago. For the latest year, 142 workers died, with a fatal injury rate of 0.46 deaths per 100,000 workers (RIDDOR). – HSE


Familiarity with risks in the workplace requires that safeguards are in place to prevent a commonly performed task from becoming a dangerous one.

“A 20-year-old worker lost his right middle finger while cleaning a printing press near a rotating gear. The machine was in operation, and his hand contacted and was caught by the rotating press. Two-thirds of his finger was cut off.”

27.3 million working days lost due to work-related illness and workplace injury - HSE


Lone workers have been proven to have unique risk associated, careful planning and assessment must be performed to ensure safe working environments are maintained.

“An 18-year-old worker died after becoming entangled in a portable mortar mixer at a residential construction site. The victim was cleaning the mixer at the end of his shift to prepare it for the following day. A painter working near the victim heard yells for help and saw the victim’s arm stuck in the machine and his body being pulled into the rotating mixer paddles.

He ran to the mixer and attempted to turn it off, but could not disengage the gears, so he yelled for help. A co-worker heard the commotion, ran to the machine, and shut it off. Emergency medical services were called and responded within minutes. Rescue workers dismantled the drive mechanism to reverse the mixing paddles and extricate the worker. He was pronounced dead at the scene.”

144 workers killed at work (2015/16) - HSE


We’re all guilty of risking health & safety when in a hurry, unfortunately, the risks from these careless actions can have serious human and financial costs. 

“I watched a colleague climb up between two huge storage shelves. I asked why he was not using one of the 2 ladders provided, he said he was in a hurry. Both shelves had enough stock on them to crush someone, causing serious injuries.”

£14.3 billion estimated costs of injuries and ill health from current working conditions (2013/14) - HSE


We’re all guilty of it from time to time.

“While training staff on proper manual handling procedures, I asked for the best way to check if a box was safe to lift. Immediately, a colleague gleefully told everyone that you kick it, which he then did as hard as he could. He broke his foot, which was very painful.”

There were 76,054 non-fatal injuries to employees reported in 2014/15 - HSE 


Carrying on with a task or behaviour that you know to be dangerous or breaking safety regulations is complicity.  Excuses can always be made, but sooner or later an incident or unfortunate event is bound to occur.

“A colleague attempted to attach a multi-plug adapter to a wall socket that already had 20 or more plugs connected, and was covered in dust. When asked if they would do that at home, they were certain it would cause a fire and wouldn’t dare at home. I asked why it would be done here in work, to which they replied that they weren’t in charge of health and safety.”

Wiring, cabling, plugs involved in electrical fires in 2011/12 equals 2,899 fires, 223 injuries, and 10 deaths in the UK according to statistics from Electrical Safety First.


Safety culture requires engagement from the ground upwards, and can’t be created overnight.

“I happened to be going into the storeroom when a colleague ran through the door and down some steps. I watched as they got inside a machine to compact cardboard boxes. It was the person’s idea to hide there to jump out and scare another colleague who was in fun pursuit.

I pointed out that they would be possibly crushed to death if someone did not know they were inside, and in a hurry turned it on. I had heard of another company whose policy was to fire an employee if they climbed into a compactor on the spot.”

611,000 injuries occurred at work according to the Labour Force Survey - HSE


What next?

Avoiding these 7 Sins is no easy task for employees and Safety Managers alike.

To learn more about improving your workplace safety culture so that none of these negative behaviours set in take a look at our guide to engaging your workforce. 

To find out more information as to how EcoOnline can help you streamline any of your organisation's health and safety processes and improve engagement, why not Request a Demo from one of our super-friendly product specialists.

Author Laura Fitzgerald

Laura Fitzgerald is a Content Marketing Manager with EcoOnline. She has been writing about health and safety topics since 2017, with a focus on the areas of improving employee safety engagement and EHS legislation.

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