Establishing a Safety Culture
Building and maintaining a durable, effective safety culture is a conscious, intentional process that requires successfully completing several steps. These include:
- Articulating values. It's essential that top leadership state and reinforce these values.
- Establishing expected behaviours. This includes setting policies and procedures regarding how activities are to be conducted.
- Establishing expected ways of thinking. A systems thinking approach is important for addressing the factors that lead to safety incidents.
- Investing in resources. These include allocating sufficient time, correct equipment and internal staff support.
- De-incentivise undesired nehaviours. This means enforcing consequences for inappropriate safety actions.
- Incentivise Desired Behaviours. Incentives include recognition, awards, incentives, and promoting safety norms.
- Promote Continuous Improvement. It's imperative for companies to take steps to look for areas of improvement and identify new processes to foster a safety-first culture.
We have also put together a downloadable guide for 9 steps to a successful Safety Culture which could help you get on top of your safety needs.
Changing the Safety Culture in your Organisation
Often health and safety personnel can enter a company which has pre-established safety cultures, be it good or bad. A challenge can arise when the safety culture of the organisation is not sufficient to ensure the safety of its employees. Moreover, changing the safety culture of an organisation can be difficult.
It takes time and a concerted effort from all levels of management and employees, and as such, 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 organisation’s employees.
The main steps include:
- Commitment and communication
- Lead by example
- Develop and implement a positive reporting process
- Provide training
- Involve employees
Do you need further help altering the attitudes, behaviours, and norms of your organisation’s employees? Take a look at our blog on 5 Practical Steps to Change the Culture in your Organisation for more details.
Engaging Co-Workers in Health and Safety
Once an organisation has established an appropriate Safety culture, a key concern is to engage employees to actually follow the policies and procedures. Perhaps even more challenging has been the ability to consistently maintain those safety performances.
Many companies struggle with how to best keep their employees safe over the long term. With so many guidelines, statistics and opinions out there, it can often be hard to determine the right solutions for any given work environment, as in most cases there are no one-size-fits-all answers.
Workers can often become dis-engaged as a result of a lack of appreciation or not taking their suggestions seriously. A situation which is detrimental to any long-term progress and often results in safety concerns becoming more prevalent in the workplace.
This begs the question; how can we improve the process of engaging our workforce when it comes to health and safety matters? The following five points should be the basic considerations for any organisation:
- Leadership commitment
- Set up health and safety committees within the business
- Make “safety” personal
- Reward positive behaviours
- Monitor programs and track results
To read more about engaging your co-workers in health and safety take a look at our full blog post on this topic.
Implementing positive Safety Culture in the Workplace
Involvement of Management with Safety Culture
Creating a safe and hazard-free environment contributes not only to better mental and physical well-being of workers with the promotion of positive safety culture but also higher productivity. Businesses with higher safety and health standards are more competitive and sustainable.
It doesn’t come as shocking news that poor or non-existent occupational safety and health (OSH) practices cost companies money. But did you know that according to studies, for every Euro invested in OSH, there is a return of €2.2 Euros? The study was initiated by the International Social Security Association (ISSA), and included 337 interviewed companies representing 19 countries.
To read more on how senior management benefits from improving OSH, click below:
Health & Safety Committees
Another area which we discussed briefly above is the need to establish a Health and Safety Committee to promote and improve safety culture. Health and safety committees over the past few years have become very effective ways of gaining stronger employee participation and buy-in when it comes to safety, health and welfare matters affecting employees at the workplace.
In an ever-evolving workplace, safety practices and standards have very much started focusing on employee engagement and involvement in making safety decisions. This has even become more clear in the recently introduced ISO 45001 Occupational Health and Safety Management System, where employee participation in safety decisions is one of the key concepts being presented in the standard.
Below are the steps we establish to be best practices for setting up safety committees:
- Select a sponsor
- Assign a chairperson
- Provide meeting support
- Carefully consider the members
To read more about setting up safety committees and the areas that should be discussed in committee meetings click here:
All in all, these committees need to be used to empower employees to make health and safety decisions in relation to their workplace. The collective participation in improving health and safety aspects of their organisations has a huge impact on increasing employee morale, leadership, and in further enhancing the collective safety culture within the organisation.
Introducing Toolbox Talks
In addition to safety committees, toolbox talks can be an important component of a positive safety culture. Toolbox talks are two-way discussions about safety which allows and promotes employees to focus on a particular issue in a non-threatening environment. These tools can be used daily to promote the department safety culture as well as to facilitate health and safety discussions on job sites. More importantly, conducting such gatherings is a great way to welcome new ideas and allow employees to exchange feedback with managers and other departments.
Tips for running Successful Toolbox Talks
Although these talks are informal and there are no set rules of how best to conduct such talks. Here is a defined framework which may help you to begin promoting them.
Keep them short. As they are informal, it is not necessary to take up too much of people’s time; no more than 15 minutes should be sufficient.
Define the topic. Ensure that everyone has a good understanding of the specific issue that's being discussed. Defining the technical terms can be a good start to this step.
Make it relevant. Bring the safety issue into context with the group’s daily tasks. Understand the type of people who are attending and their daily tasks and use real-life examples that they will understand.
Ask if anyone needs training. After your initial discussion, it may become apparent that re-training may be necessary. By opening this topic up to the floor, you can get a feel of if that is true and necessary.
Maintain a safe, positive environment. The main purpose of such talks is to allow employees to give their thoughts. It's important that you maintain a safe and positive environment, so people don't feel hesitant when sharing their thoughts and opinions.
Help Your Employees Visualise Safety
Promoting a positive safety culture can be as easy as creating visual aids for employees surrounding safety related topics. One of the causes of injuries at work is when employees aren’t aware of the danger that is present. Posters can help with localised awareness of specific dangers, or can promote safety in general. These posters can be as specific as “How to use a Fire Extinguisher” or as generic as describing “Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)” that's used in the workplace.
We have designed many visual aids across a broad range of topics, click below to download the relevant posters which would be useful in your organisation:
Teach Responsibility with Job Safety Analysis
The importance of good training procedures can not be over-emphasised if you’re trying to promote a safety culture. Many organisations with a strong safety culture have one thing in common: they use proven ways of teaching responsibility to their employees. One of these tools includes conducting a job safety analysis (JSA) to help create a safe work environment.
How to Conduct a Job Safety Analysis
A job safety analysis is one of the many ways you can control occupational hazards. The process is designed to identify potential workplace safety hazards, and provides employees with recommendations on how to reduce and eliminate these risks. Appropriate steps to conduct a JSA may include the following:
- Identify the basic steps involved in a particular job or task and list them by order
- Identify the hazards and the potential hazards with each step. Be sure to consider the entire job environment around each step.
- Make safety recommendations for each step. It's important to get employees engaged around this, especially those who're responsible for performing the job.
There are two things to note about conducting a job safety analysis. JSA should be done regularly by your organisation and it should be conducted as a team project. Taking both into consideration, it's safe to say that conducting a job safety analysis can promote positive health and safety culture and engage your workforce.
Safety culture can be promoted by something as simple as ensuring your employees are trained to conduct their work safely but also in the correct manner and are given the correct equipment to do so. Many people find themselves using a computer for a large part of their day. Poor workplace design or lack of appropriate equipment can contribute to workplace injuries and illness. By making your employees aware of the dangerous of poor ergonomics, you can help foster a positie safety culture in the workplace.
Take a look at our blog post on workplace ergonomics for more details.
Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility
It has been established that sustainable practices are capable of generating more than just goodwill in some organisations. When the health and safety department incorporates new initiatives, like recycling programmes for example, into everyday practices, they’re working to strengthen the culture of safety within the organisation. Encouraging positive behaviours in the workplace may eventually contribute to the overall safety culture around work in the organisation. In practice, it’s all about engaging and motivating employees to “do the right thing”. By promoting such sustainability for example, you’re working on attitudes, beliefs, and values to achieve your goals, while also aligning employees to behave in a uniform manner.
The Benefits of Creating a Positive Safety Culture
In a positive culture, questions about health and safety should be part of everyday work conversations. Management should listen actively to what they are being told by employees, and take what they hear seriously. Employees should feel confident about reporting accidents and near misses to enable the company to learn lessons from such events. To read more on near misses, click the link below.
The main benefits of creating a positive safety culture are as follows:
- Lower absenteeism – if people are fit and healthy, they won't have to take as many sick days.
- Lower cost on wages – no doubled-up costs of sick pay and overtime cover to fill the gaps.
- Happier workforce – if employees feel safe and secure at work, they’ll be happier.
- Lower staff turnover – if employees know that they're valued and their safety is a priority, companies will have to pay a lot less to replace workers who’ve left resulting in reduced costs related to onboarding, recruitment, and training.
- Reduced risk of fines – if the HSE were unhappy with health and safety practices, companies could be subject to hefty fines.
- Reduced insurance claims – injury and illness claims, property damage and business interruption all cost money. Investing money to reduce claims will save money in the long term.
- Reduced insurance premiums – The better the health and safety performance, the lower the premium.
- Improved productivity, quality & profitability – the presence of positive workplace perceptions and feelings are associated with higher customer loyalty, higher profitability, higher productivity and lower rates of staff turnover.
- More satisfied clients & stakeholders – if quality, efficiency, and staff relations are all exemplary, a business will have a reputation to reflect that.