Promoting Safety Culture

As the person responsible for Health and Safety within your organisation, would you be able to evidence that you have positive Health and Safety culture?

Investigations into Zeebrugge Ferry and King’s Cross Underground found that due to the unrecognised poor safety culture and working custom and practice these disasters where an accident waiting to happen.

A culture is something that is shared, taught or copied. In a business setting, acceptance or tolerance to risk and how hazards are controlled including how you deal with accidents and near misses, is commonly known as Safety Culture

The success of your Health and Safety management system is hinged on your employee’s attitudes and behaviours which they would consider to be the norm. The norm being shared values and beliefs that are a result of the organisation’s management structure, process and systems that are currently in place.

Holistic approach

Your working practices should all come together with successful Risk Management. IOSH identify that the three main elements of a positive safety culture are the working environment, systems and procedures, and the people in the organisation.

Holistic Approach - Safety Culture

How do I improve my organisation’s safety culture?

Safety Culture is not an overnight result, fundamental change requires time and this should be considered when planning your next steps. Remember that what might work for one company may not work for you, with this in mind the first step is to establish what is happening in your organisation. The first step would be to analyse your accident book and reports of near misses, this will identify any obvious unsafe attitudes and values towards safe working.

What do I need to consider when reviewing my safety culture?

Participation of the workforce is key, with senior management showing a positive attitude and commitment to leading change slowly and efficiently. Once you have the work force on board, you need to consider what suitable arrangements need to be implemented to ensure that you manage risk through the holistic approach:

  • Gain a mutual trust between senior management and the workforce;
  • Implement regular audits, review reports and supply employee questionnaires so that you can start to build a picture of the business and focus your resources on the main issues. Key areas that you may want to review are:
    • Leadership – ensuring management are visible and in close contact with the workforce
    • Regular attendance to Health and Safety training
    • Monitoring employees concerns towards the organisation through employee forums of a confidential post review
    • Ensure that employees know what their requirements are for Health and Safety
    • Review employees’ visible awareness of Health and Safety for themselves and others
  • Have a clear understanding of what is acceptable and unacceptable with regards to reckless behaviour
  • Look at implementing your reporting system that doesn’t focus on a blame culture but instead you encourage or even reward reporting.
  • Invest in the apparent influential people within the workforce. These people are key for communication between management and the workforce and improving the safety culture
  • Ensure that the standard safe working practices you adopt are compliant with the law and best practice

Once you have implemented your own way of identifying safety culture, consider implementing the Plan-Do-Check Act Framework, which will assist you in developing a scheme for continued monitoring and progress.