A Road Map to Building a Safety Culture Within Your Organisation 

17/02/2024by admin0Read: 4 minutes

A safety culture represents the organisational ethos that places significant emphasis on safety beliefs, values, and attitudes—shared by the majority within the company or workplace. It embodies ‘the way we do things around here.’ A favourable safety culture yields enhanced workplace health and safety (WHS) and organizational performance.

As a safety leader, it’s crucial to introspect:

  1. What is the level of importance assigned to safety?
  2. Is safety deemed important consistently or only in specific situations?
  3. Is compromising on safety acceptable if it incurs higher costs? Organizations aspiring to foster a positive safety culture, embraced by all, should invest in developing and promoting managers equipped with the requisite knowledge, skills, and attitudes to effectively handle safety responsibilities.

Comprehending the factors that shape your organisation’s safety culture can play a pivotal role in transforming employee attitudes and behaviours regarding workplace health and safety.

A successful safety culture necessitates leadership from the upper echelons, with the CEO and senior managers actively embracing and embodying safety principles.

The correlation between robust leadership and management commitment and safety performance is direct. It serves as an illustrative example for employees, delineating the actions that will be acknowledged, accepted, or penalised. This, in turn, moulds the actions and behaviours initiated and sustained by employees.

Culture Actions Crucial to Cultivating Safety Culture Within an Organisation

Nine overarching behaviours, known as culture actions, are deemed crucial in cultivating a favourable safety culture within an organisation.

Culture Action 1: Articulate Company Values

Effectively convey the expected, supported, and valued behaviours, decisions, and attitudes within the organization. Safety values, specific to each company, underpin messages of prioritizing safety as an integral part of daily values and actions rather than an additional task. Utilize communication channels like work health and safety policy statements, safety posters, toolbox talks, and management “walk-arounds” to embed these messages.

Culture Action 2: Exemplify Leadership

Motivate and inspire others to prioritize work health and safety by consistently communicating its importance. Demonstrate top-down leadership by engaging staff in safety tool development, wearing personal protective equipment, and conducting regular inspections and toolbox talks. Foster leadership attributes among all employees to enhance ownership and compliance with safety procedures.

Culture Action 3: Clarify Expected Behaviours

Communicate to employees the specific behaviours required of them through emails, memos, conversations, toolbox talks, and other communication methods. Address inappropriate behaviours and reinforce positive actions through praise or acknowledgment, fostering a culture of accountability.

Culture Action 4: Personalise Safety Outcomes

Emphasize the personal impact of work health and safety outcomes for individuals. Communicate the consequences of risks, linking them to personal responsibility and the importance of maintaining a safe work environment. Humanize incidents by highlighting the personal aspects, moving beyond statistics to emphasize the real impact on individuals.

Culture Action 5: Instil Positive Safety Attitudes

Promote attitudes and beliefs supporting safe behaviour. Encourage a culture where managers, employees, and subcontractors actively challenge unsafe behaviours and attitudes while recognizing and rewarding positive safety attitudes. Foster values emphasizing the importance of personal safety over financial considerations.

Culture Action 6: Foster Engagement and Ownership

Enhance involvement in safety management processes by empowering individuals. Establish a safe workplace where employees understand their responsibilities, proactively identify hazards, and take ownership of their safety and that of their colleagues. Build engagement through daily input, trust-building, and involving all levels of management in planning.

Culture Action 7: Increase Hazard/Risk Awareness

Boost understanding of work health and safety outcomes associated with decisions, behaviours, and actions. Facilitate meaningful two-way communication to raise hazard and risk awareness, encouraging proactive identification and control of hazards. Managers should communicate clearly, avoiding blame and emphasizing personal impacts.

Culture Action 8: Enhance Safety Management System Understanding

Enable individuals to comprehend and implement safety management systems effectively. Senior management involvement in the actual work or tasks increases knowledge, fostering safer work practices and behaviours. Companies should base their safety systems on established standards, encouraging continuous improvement and problem-solving.

Culture Action 9: Monitor, Review, and Reflect

Regularly seek feedback on the effectiveness of cultural actions and safety-related behaviours. Use various sources of information to fine-tune leadership approaches and continuously improve safety initiatives. Develop a leadership style that builds relationships, fosters trust, and ensures adherence to safety processes while actively involving workers.

Role of Employees in Developing a Positive Safety Culture

When your workforce witnesses your prioritization of safety, you lay the foundation for a positive, high-performing safety culture. In such an environment, employees play the following important roles:

1) Acts and Thinks Safely:

  • Safety becomes an instinctive part of every task.

2) Shares Safety Values:

  • A collective commitment to safety permeates the workplace.

3) Anticipates and Corrects Unsafe Actions:

  • Proactive identification and correction of unsafe practices become the norm.

4) Prioritises Prevention:

  • Preventative measures take precedence over over-reactive responses.

Impact of a Positive Safety Culture

A robust safety culture not only enhances safety performance but can also elevate overall business performance. Several elements contribute to this positive culture:

1) Professional Development Support:

  • Encourage ongoing learning and skill development.

2) Mental Health Awareness:

  • Identify and eliminate obstacles to good mental health.

3) Embracing Diversity:

  • Recognize diversity as an organizational advantage.

4) Low Turnover and Sick Leave:

  • A healthy work environment correlates with reduced turnover and absenteeism.

5) High Staff Loyalty:

  • A sense of loyalty is cultivated among employees.

6) Productive Team Members:

  • Workers become integral, productive members of a cohesive team.

Achieving these cultural shifts requires time, dedication, and strong leadership. However, the positive impact on workers, the bottom line, and reputation is well worth the effort.

Demonstrating Leadership in Health and Safety

Demonstrate health and safety leadership by:

1) Open Communication:

  • Foster honesty and openness about health and safety concerns.

2) Strategic Planning:

  • Develop an annual plan and a long-term vision for safety.

3) Investment in Health and Safety:

  • Allocate time, funds, and resources to health and safety initiatives.

4) Everyday Conversations:

  • Make health and safety a regular topic of discussion.

5) Setting Clear Expectations:

  • Clearly articulate expectations and encourage accountability.

6) Near Miss Investigations:

  • Investigate near misses to prevent future incidents.

Moving Forward Safely

Sustain a safety-first mindset by:

1) Regular Training and Supervision:

  • Consistently train, supervise, and monitor workers for safety.

2) Effective Communication and Consultation:

  • Regularly review and enhance communication and consultation processes.

3) Implementing a Management System:

  • Establish a robust work health and safety management system.

4) Wellbeing Programs:

  • Introduce workplace wellbeing programs to support holistic employee health.

As businesses invest in these strategies, safety will become an ingrained part of your workplace culture, ensuring a secure and thriving environment for all.

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