If you could go out and buy a product that would reduce costs for the business as well as increasing staff morale and productivity, I am sure we would all want to be at the front of the queue. Overwhelming evidence suggests that this product is available to all of us in the form of a positive safety culture and promotes a proactive approach to health and safety.
What Actually Is a Safety Culture?
There are hundreds of slightly differing definitions of a ‘safety culture’. The Health and Safety Executive defines it this way, in HSG65 – Managing for health and safety. A safety culture is the following:
“The product of individual and group values, attitudes, perceptions, competencies and patterns of behaviour that determine commitment to, and the style and proficiency of an organisation’s health and safety management.”
There are many cultures within an organisation such as religious, racial and corporate. The safety culture is the way in which your organisation takes ownership of their responsibilities to employees, customers and stakeholders. Depending on the way in which this is done determines either a positive or negative safety culture.
Key Aspects of Creating an Effective Culture:
Management commitment: If employees can see that management are committed to health and safety this produces higher levels of motivation and concern for health and safety throughout the organisation.
Visible management: Managers need to be seen to lead by example when it comes to health and safety. Good managers appear regularly on the ‘shop floor’, talk about health and safety and visibly demonstrate their commitment by their actions. It is important that management is perceived as sincerely committed to safety. If not, employees will feel that commercial interests come first, and safety initiatives or programmes will be undermined by cynicism.
Good communications between all levels of employee: 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 to report accidents and near misses to enable the company to learn lessons from these.
Benefit of a Positive Health and Safety Culture
- Lower absenteeism – if people are fit and healthy they’ll remain at work.
- Lower wage bills – no doubled-up costs of sick pay and overtime cover to fill the gaps.
- Reduced repairs & re-working – when things are done right there is less injury, damage or out of spec product meaning less costs for repairs, re-working and waste disposal.
- Happier workforce – if employees feel safe and secure at work, they’ll be happier.
- Lower staff turnover – if employees don’t think the grass is greener elsewhere, companies will be paying a lot less to replace workers who’ve left. And a lot less on recruitment and training too.
- 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 – if quality, efficiency and staff relations are all exemplary a business will have a reputation to reflect that.
Room For Improvement
It is impossible to improve your safety culture overnight, or even in a week or a month. Your organisation needs to make a firm decision, which can be seen by stakeholders, including staff and customers, that this is going to be a long-term strategy. Once all levels of management have made this commitment and decided to take ownership of your staff’s health and safety, targets must be set which are realistic as well as measurable.
Complete our ‘Safety Culture checklist’ to see how you are doing and to see if there are any areas that need improvement. To request this checklist, please contact Safety Aide at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website to download it.
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