Many senior health and safety staff claim when beginning a new role, or setting a yearly objective. That one of their major aims is to change the safety culture of their existing or their new company.
Perhaps as a Health and Safety Manager new to the topic. Or, as someone not in health and safety but who has been given safety responsibilities – changing a companies cultures can feel overwhelming.
So what does it actually mean ? Where do you start ? How will you positively effect change and culture within your company ?! Hopefully below I can demystify the subject and start to provide some answers…..
What is Safety Culture ?
It’s the way in which health and safety is managed in a workplace or company. A combination of beliefs, perceptions and the attitudes of employers towards the safety of their employees. And employees towards the safety of themselves and colleagues. Include also the overall safety of the working environment.
If I Want to Change the Attitude to Safety in my Company – Where do I Start ?
Changing the safety culture within a company will be different for every organization. As a basic starting point, firstly ascertain where you are currently. Look to start by:
- Appoint a designated health and safety employee. If this is not you or if one does not already exist
- Assess your workforce’s current health and safety training and compliance with a gap analysis
- Assess and update your existing health and safety tools, systems and standards
Woo ! That’s a lot. The Above is too Much !
Okay, I get it. Breathe ! Let’s take a step back. Many companies are without the time, resources or staff with the skillset to undertake a full assessment or gap analysis.
Firstly. Look at what you could really need. Right now.
- Ask employees what messages they perceive that they receive from management/the company as regards health and safety. This perception could be your first topic to address
- Use these conversations to begin a dialogue and spend time really listening to what the employees are saying. This could be your opportunity to get good, strong personnel on your side
- Ensure that the topic of health and safety culture is introduced into the Agenda of your health and safety committee meetings
- Ensure that top management is on board with your efforts. Can you get their involvement ? Reinforce to them their responsibility as role models ? Educate them that the fact that changing safety culture includes management behaviours
- Cultivate trust with your employees and colleagues and ensure that the approach that you take is seen as fair
What Should I Look to Avoid ?
- Don’t underestimate the amount of time, effort and planning that will be required to change employee attitudes to safety
- Try not to be over-optimistic in what can be achieved. And in what timeframes
- Don’t over focus on improving safety culture. And take your eye off the ball as regards other aspects of safety in your company
What Can I Use to Motivate Employees to Change their Attitude to Health and Safety ?
Motivation of employees will require a combination of factors.
These will include increased employee engagement and the additional commitment of the company to health and safety. Here are some tips to get you started:
- Make safety visible. Ensure that safety reminders and training are part of every step of your employee engagement. Begin at the initial hiring and onboarding of staff. Display safety bulletins and HSE Committee meeting minutes on staff noticeboards and in canteens. Send company wide emails and SMS communications relating to safety
- Try the use of positive reinforcement. Tailor it to your company, employees and their activities. Think carefully about how this could look. How will you reinforce good safe work practices ? Via what methods ? How often will you do this ?
- Ensure that your workforce feels ownership and accountability of their own safety within the company
- Ensure that the company is a safe space for employees to express concerns over safety or any aspect of the current health and safety regime
- Continually ask for feedback on the safety programme. Then commit to taking that feedback onboard and making the required changes
What Reward can I Expect to get for my Efforts ?
Positive results that you can expect from employee attitudes to safety changing for the better include:
- Increased levels of health and safety compliance
- Lower levels of staff turnover
- A reduction in accident rates
- Increased employee engagement with safety information and campaigns
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