Promoting a strong health and safety (H&S) culture is not rocket science, but it takes time, effort and resources!
The overall culture in a company has a tremendous effect on the health and safety performance of employees. Culture is a notoriously tricky concept to pin down and fully understand. In slightly vague terms, the H&S culture of an organisation is the summation of groups values, attitudes, perceptions, competencies and behavioural patterns (Health and Safety Executive). These together determine the commitment to, and the style of, H&S management.
Here are some warning signs you need to be careful off, some signs that you’re on the right track, and some solid advice for boosting your health and safety culture.
Warning signs of a poor health and safety culture
- There is little demonstrated commitment to H&S from senior management.
- There’s a natural tendency to rationalise shortcuts when under pressure, especially when nothing bad happens.
- The risk assessment was just another ‘job to be done’ and therefore lacks proper risk conceptualisation.
- Employees are not aware of, or don’t understand, the organisation's safety policy.
- Accidents are blamed on individuals. If you had been in an accident but knew you’d get in trouble - would you report it?
- There is no proper safety training for new employees, nor an introduction to who’s responsible for H&S.
Signs you’ve got a strong health and safety culture
- Senior managers are on the health and safety board and show commitment and care for all H&S concerns.
- Employees feel confident reporting accidents, and when there’s been a near miss. This implies that there’s an environment that encourages openness and safety.
- Employees challenge deviation, and it’s encouraged to follow H&S protocol.
- There is visible evidence that the organisation is investing in H&S.
- When a concern is raised, action is always taken.
- The managing director is often seen on the floor chatting to all levels of people in the organisation.
11 ways to boost your health and safety culture
#1 Put safety first, and mean it! Encourage employees to speak up through a few different channels. Have monthly meetings, do management drop in’s, have an anonymous letterbox, or get a whiteboard where people can jot down their thoughts.
#2 Make sure the manager is on the floor regularly and chatting to employees. This creates a nice buzz and encourages two-way channel of communication.
#3 When new employees start, give them a proper safety induction.
#4 Set the rules, then stick to them. Normalisation of deviation can sneak up on you, and you need to make sure that your employees follow the H&S legislation. It’s there for a reason.
#5 Recognise safe behaviour. Positive reinforcement is essential in building safe habits. Throw some success stories or best practice examples on the wall in the canteen and make sure everyone knows what a safe behaviour is.
#6 Never blame the employees. Learn to learn from accidents and near misses, but never blame the employees.
#7 Build safety into the daily to do’s, make sure employees have the time and resources that they need to carry out their work in a safe manner.
#8 Introduce toolbox talks. A toolbox talk is a short informal discussion that focuses on a specific safety issue. Add a toolbox talk to all of your team meetings and brush up on workplace H&S regularly.
#9 Make a H&S notice board. Split it into news/ thoughts/ feedback and whatever else you think should be on there. This will show that the organisation takes health and safety seriously and that they care about the opinions and welfare of their employees.
#10 Make sure that there are people from all levels of seniority on the H&S board. This way you make sure that all concerns and risks are covered, from HR to production to marketing and through to managing director.
#11 Make sure your safety training is interesting. No more first aid days that almost bore people to death - they’re pretty useless. Your training needs to be engaging and encouraging to make sure the attendees remember what they’ve learned.
About Safety Training Scotland
Since Safety Training Scotland was founded in 2013, it has delivered courses to over 2000 successful delegates. Training everyone from young people starting their careers to CEO’s, Safety Training Scotland has grown a well-known reputation and large clientele in a short period of time. At Safety Training we’re passionate about changing the negative perception of health and safety training. Our highest priority is not just to inform, but also to engage and inspire. We are transforming the safety training industry and putting an end to ‘death by powerpoint’.