Importance Of Health And Safety Culture In Your Organization

Sep 23, 2021 3:12:14 PM | Importance Of Health And Safety Culture In Your Organization

Health and safety hazards are a liability for your business. 

But does your company have a health and safety culture that provides a working environment for safe and healthy employees? And are your employees actively engaged in safety training? If they aren’t, you’re leaving money on the table. Workers disengaged with training cost the industry $450-550 billion each year. But is that the fault of the workers? Not at all, they are the result of poorly conducted training and poor safety cultures. 

It’s a natural thing for us humans to be influenced by our environment. And just as the self-help gurus punt their speeches on surrounding yourself with the people you want to be like, well, we can use this same leverage for our health and safety culture. 

When a new employee arrives at the workplace, the new staff will likely adapt to the new environment instead of moving against the flow. Your workplace needs to be the perfect environment to promote safe and safe healthy employees. 

Are company rules enough? No. Because if the culture is not onboard with occupational health and safety then a new employee will likely piggyback the existent flow- promoting more safety hazards and potential health problems.

Keep reading to find out why it is so important to create a good health and safety culture in the workplace, identify the warning signs of a poor health and safety culture and discover how to transform a poor culture into a positive health and safety culture by establishing long-lasting behaviours and culture

What exactly is a health and safety culture and how do you know if you have a positive one?

Here’s the short and sweet answer: A safety culture helps keep your employees safe and healthy. 

But there’s plenty more that goes into creating and maintaining a culture in the workplace that ensures compliance.

Quick Look: What is Safety Culture?

Pressed for time or want a quick reference guide to make sure you understand the ins and outs of a safety culture? Take a look at this list.

  • Incorporates organizational norms, beliefs, and values
  • Inspires initiatives for training, habits, exercises, actions, relationships, and anything else that goes into establishing a health and safety-focused company with health and safety as the values and principles of a workplace
  • Overall mindset of both employees and employers. Everyone should be habitually including health and safety in every decision and task
  • Besides the ‘rules’ the health and safety culture can most honestly be reviewed when employees think that no one is watching. This determines the true girth of a workplace’s safety culture
  • Health and safety is not the main workplace culture, but it is a subset. 
  • Represents how and why things are done in the organization
  • It is the result of both group and individual behavioural patterns, perceptions, values, attitudes and competencies. 
  • Safety culture is forged through open and clear communication throughout the different levels of an organization 
  • A safety culture also represents the proficiency of how health and safety are followed in the workplace as well as the management’s proficiency.
  • A good safety culture relies on an efficient safety management system

There are two pillars that uphold a strong safety culture:

  • Set of practices

    This is the way or manner that physical tasks are done

  • Mindset
    This is the way or ways of thinking throughout the workplace and employees

A health safety culture arises when these two pillars are shared throughout the workplace and employees are included in safety-related decisions. This involves all employees as they can control the risks associated with the various workplace duties and responsibilities. 

In general, health and safety culture represents the following:

  • Attitudes
  • Beliefs
  • Perceptions
  • Values

These four attributes need to be shared by the workforce and guide how tasks within the organization are performed. 

When these four attributes are rooted in a health and safety mindset, it will reflect in the way the company and employees do their physical work and tasks - because it starts in the mental sphere first.

Can a good health and safety culture be forged overnight? No. But, it can be reinforced gradually. As long as the organizational structure is rooted in health and safety, employees will gradually adopt this mindset too. 

Why is it important to have a positive health and safety culture in your organisation?

Why is a good safety culture important?

Being compliant with health and safety regulations is a legal duty, but there is a difference between implementing a set of rules and crafting a positive health and safety culture.

While we don’t all have the fire in us to get cast out of the kingdom, there’s a little bit of a rebellious streak in all of us. As humans, we are designed to question and think for ourselves. So why not leverage that? If you throw safety rules at your employees and just expect them to follow them with an eye-roll and a shrug, well then you can expect those incident reports to keep stacking up. But by creating a culture that involves everyone in health and safety, where the nature of health and safety is understood and made personal, then you are giving your employees the chance to be seen as not only people (instead of just a number) but as people that get to play an active role in a macro environment. 

Creating a good health and safety culture is your single most impressive weapon when fighting hazards in the workplace. And it goes without saying, if you want to reduce the number of incident reports and keep your employees safe (and far from insurance claims) then you need to start creating a safety culture, stat.

The importance of a health and safety culture cannot be overemphasised- it’s that essential to your workplace. 

And as for existing employees, well they will require less supervision as your health and safety culture takes root in the workplace- helping you manage your management role more efficiently without being the health and safety babysitter. 

When your health and safety culture is commendable, you will notice more things than just a lower incident report rating. The environment becomes a safer, more secure place. This enhances productivity, boosting employee morale and loyalty in the long run. 

Get your workforce on board with compliance by cultivating a safety culture

Implementing rules is the easy part. But getting your workplace on board with these rules takes a positive health and safety culture. Having a robust health and safety culture in the work environment means that you can nip complacency in the bud, and ensure that every employee is on board with compliance. 

Creating this positive health and safety culture is therefore one of the singular most powerful tools for managers or health and safety officers. 

This positive culture means that all employees are encouraged to participate in occupational safety- and not just from a ‘follow the rules’ standpoint. But rather, they take an active role in creating that culture.

This is the true power of a health and safety culture. Employees understand its importance, and they are engaged with health and safety. They become active participants rather than dormant rule followers. Because the latter breeds resentment and complacency further down the line.

Signs of a Poor Safety Culture

Every single workplace and environment has a safety culture. The question is not whether or not a workplace has a safety culture, the question is whether it is a positive. 

If you know that your employees tend to turn a blind eye to risks, then you know your health and safety culture needs some work. But there are smaller, more subtle signs that your workplace is at risk of having a poor safety culture. And if your workplace is at risk, then so are your employees. 

Here are some other signs that you need to improve your company’s safety culture:

  1. High number of incident reports

Take a look at the stats. What are the accident reports telling you? This is the easiest way to identify your company’s safety culture is a risk. Remember, high accident reports do not cause a poor safety culture- they are the result of one! 

  1. Poor compliance

This is another all too obvious sign that is often overlooked: poor compliance records. As an employer, it is your duty to ensure the business is compliant with health and safety regulations. 

If top management is not pulling their weight with compliance, it is redundant to expect the workforce to be safety-minded. 

The other side to this is when regulations enforcing compliance are in place, but workers are not abiding by these rules and regulations. If employees are not complying with regulations, it is a sure-fire indicator for poor safety culture. 

This can be the result of several factors:

  • Rules are complicated, complex or miscommunicated by management
  • Rules are communicated but not in an effective way, leading to misunderstanding. Use toolbox talks and other training methods to enhance overall safety culture and boost effective communication. 
  • No suitable supervision to support safety compliance. While your workforce shouldn’t need a babysitter, it does help to have a safety officer or responsible person that supports safety compliance in the workplace. 
  • Poor management and training. This can dramatically affect worker’s compliance. Poor organization can lead to missed deadlines, safety issues and inefficient staff safety training. 
  1. Lacklustre health and safety communication

Communication is key for running all aspects of a successful business, especially health and safety compliance. Is your company hearing feedback from employees regarding safety issues and safety hazards? If not, are you giving them ample opportunity to do so? 

  1. What does the Company budget for health and safety look like?

Numbers don’t lie, and in this case, if you have a poor budget for health and safety, it is as close to a guarantee as you will get that you will have a poor safety culture. Why? Because health and safety need to be understood as an investment- because that’s exactly what it is. A good health and safety culture reduces incident reports, effectively reducing the resources spent when a safety issue or safety incident arises.

  1. No health and safety infrastructure

Growing a safety culture takes a strong core of structured safety management. Safety needs to start at the top tier- this gives employees a strong example to follow. Employees need a solid structure to follow for safety and health-related issues. Does your staff member know how to report hazards in the workplace? Where can a worker go to brush up on safety guidelines before doing a dangerous or specialised task? 

Here are some other alarms to look out for:

  • Underreporting. Are safety incidents always reported? Incidents need to be approached with a mindset to learn from. These safety incidents are showing both employees and employers where the holes are, and what needs to be addressed. 
  • Safety blame game. If employees are blamed for accidents, the incident tends to stop there. Rather, understand the root cause of the incident and use it to learn from. 
  • Safety incident reports and risk assessments remain as plain two dimensional documents. Accident reports need to have follow up and correctional implementation. 

How to Develop a Positive Health and Safety Culture

Start creating an effective safety culture by implementing these strategic tips:

  1. Take on Transformational Leadership 

A safety culture depends on having a mindset rooted in the cause and effect of actions- and to get there sometimes it might take a bit of persuasion to get employees to be safety-minded. The traditional dictator type leaders will threaten a safety culture- employees need to be able to be independently thinking of safety as they go about their jobs and tasks. Otherwise, safety becomes a paper-based set of rules that are forgotten about as soon as the training ends and the work begins. 

 

Transformational leadership encourages employees to think of safety issues for themselves, and how their actions will impact both their lives and the safety of their coworkers. It helps to change the way staff consider health and safety, understanding it in a way that relates to them. This is the single most powerful way to transform your workplace’s safety culture- by transforming the way employees think about occupational health and safety. 

But how do you do this? 

Here are some top tips for taking on a more transformational leadership approach:

  • Coaching over instruction
  • Be constructive in criticism
  • Acknowledge success and use mistakes as a learning curve, turning a negative failure into a positive opportunity 
  • Training becomes inclusive and engaging
  • Motivate the team and encourage an open communication 
  • Build a sense of community amongst workers, they need to feel like they can trust the company they work for
  • Engage workers in conversations about compliance, regulations, rules, and even training. Involving staff members in incident reports, assessments and other aspects of health and safety builds a safety culture 
  1. Analyse incidents

Take a look at the incidents, and identify the causes of occupational injuries and safety issues. These will be your first stepping stones when creating an effective safety culture. Use incident reports to see which rules need implementing or adjusting. How can procedures be improved to promote a safe working environment? 

  1. Invest in your company’s health and safety

Investing in health and safety tools (link VITS) gives your company the boost it needs when setting up a culture that bolsters safety in the workplace. Tools like VITS provide a safety management system that takes care of the endless processes and bureaucracy, so that you can work on the safety culture

  1. Management needs to set the ‘Safety Stage’

Studies show a new employee will typically go with the current work environment’s flow- that means a strong sense of safety needs to come from management first, and then let that guide safety into the mindset of every employee. A safe workplace is then created by both employees and employers. But this takes management and a dedicated team with an approach to infiltrate the workplace with a strong safety culture. If your company’s leadership is lacking in safety, then that will cause workplace safety culture to degrade and promote injuries and illnesses

  1. Encourage Engagement and Conversation

Encourage staff to submit ideas and suggestions for improving health and safety in the workplace. A positive health and safety culture relies on effective communication that encourages an inclusive conversation around health and safety. 

8 Indicators of positive health and safety culture

Use these 10 indicators as a roadmap for your health and safety culture. 

  1. Strong safety values

Effective safety cultures are rooted in well communicated and established safety values. These values are known, understood, and implemented throughout the workforce, especially for senior managers. 

  1. Engaging and effective communication

Open communication and engagement among senior managers and staff members about safety topics can help to encourage a good health and safety culture. Employees see senior managers involved in safety and are motivated by the example. 

Effective communication provides the building blocks for a positive health and safety culture and safe working environment. Increase communication by ensuring regular safety talks are a part of a monthly or weekly agenda. Toolbox talks are another excellent way for senior managers to host engaging communication that merges with effective training. For example use toolbox talks to imbed safety practices before a day’s work in confined spaces.

  1. Resources are readily available

For an effective safety culture, safety resources need to be readily available. Ensure policies, training, and checklists are all easily downloadable

  1. Use an online platform for all things safety

Using an online platform is a safety officer’s best bet for not only increasing a safety culture but making their job simpler. An online platform helps to communicate all safety practices, risk assessments, expectations, practices, training, and policies in one hub. All training can be scheduled and done via video, helping the employee to feel like their time is valued, and helping the safety officer manage workplace safety efficiently. 

  1. High hazard reports

If your company has a high level of hazards and potential safety issues being reported, it means your safety culture is helping workers to identify hazards before they become incident reports. If your employees are reporting hazards, then it means they believe in the company’s safety practices- and genuinely understand the importance of compliance. 

  1. Rapid corrective action after incidents

A strong safety culture is created by consistent incident investigation that encourages improvement. The incidents that do happen need to be investigated and followed up with corrective control measures that help to improve the long term safety culture of the workplace. 

  1. A balanced schedule

Studies show when employees return to work after recuperation productivity levels soar. 

Aside from not overworking employees (studies show exhaustion causes 13% of occupational injuries and illnesses), companies should encourage a healthy work/life balance. Promoting rest and recuperation is an important safety practice. Good leadership shows when an employer recognises that their people at work need to feel cared for. An employee needs to feel his or her working environment takes care of health, safety and welfare.

  1. Effective Training

Did we leave the most important for last? Perhaps. Any safety official will know the importance of effective safety training. But what does effective safety training even mean? For starters, it is more than simply show and tell. You cannot just expect to get employees on board by showing them the rules and telling them to abide. Effective training involves employees, helping them to understand the regulations, safety practices, their responsibilities and the long term impact that safety has. What your company needs is a safety management system that makes effective health and safety training easy.

But how do you provide effective training?

That's where VITS comes in. Take your company’s safety compliance seriously by investing in one platform that can help build a safety culture and a safe work environment by providing a simple safety management system. Contact the VITS team and see how we make building a safety culture safety simple. 

Jaanika Jelistratov, Founder

Written By: Jaanika Jelistratov, Founder