Maintaining a positive health and safety culture is an essential part of any workplace, regardless of the size of the company, or the industry it’s operating in. Good health and safety practices can help reduce workplace accidents and injuries, improve productivity, and foster a positive work environment.
As such, it’s well worth getting everyone on board: employees and management, contractors and temporary workers alike. Here are some easily achievable ways to promote a positive health and safety culture in the workplace.
- Management buy-in is essential for the health and safety culture in an organisation to flourish. Managers and team leaders should lead by example and avoid cutting corners at all costs.
- A health and safety program should be easily accessible, and open communication should be encouraged. Everyone in the organisation should be able to report incidents or near misses readily to management, with appropriate steps taken to remedy incidents, and learn from them.
- Health and safety training should be given to everyone in the organisation, including temporary staff. Procedures should be reviewed regularly to be in line with best practices, and refresher training should be given to all staff and contractors at regular intervals.
What is meant by a positive health and safety culture?
According to the Health and Safety Laboratory:
“Safety culture is a combination of the attitudes, values and perceptions that influence how something is actually done in the workplace, rather than how it should be done…
“Poor safety culture has contributed to many major incidents and personal injuries and can be just as influential on safety outcomes as an organisation’s safety management system itself.”
As such, safety culture encompasses the mindset and attitude regarding health and safety policies and procedures. A positive culture is one that has broad buy-in and support company-wide.
In fact, safety culture is an integral part of the overall company culture, and it’s important that it functions well. According to the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE):
“Organisations with a positive safety culture are characterised by communications founded on mutual trust, by shared perceptions of the importance of safety and by confidence in the efficacy of preventive measures.”.
Why does health and safety sometimes get a bad rep?
Before we go further, let’s address the elephant in the room. ‘Health and safety’ is sometimes used dismissively, as there are those that perceive health and safety initiatives as meddling, or even at odds with business progress and productivity.
This characterisation is obviously unhelpful and speaks to an outdated mindset. For anyone who’s ever worked at ground-floor level, it should be obvious that people should be able to perform their jobs safely, and in a manner which doesn’t have a negative effect on their wellbeing.
It’s also reckless to allow, encourage or pressurise workers to cut health and safety corners in order to reach deadlines.
As we’ll see, health and safety plays an important role in a functioning workplace. After all, a healthy, happy worker is a productive worker.
What 8 steps can be taken to build a positive health and safety culture?
There are a few sensible, practical steps you can follow to encourage a positive health and safety culture in your work environment. Please note that while each is worthwhile in itself, they are all interconnected. For the best chance of a truly healthy work culture, it’s a good idea to tick all the following boxes.
#1: Develop a comprehensive health and safety policy
A comprehensive health and safety policy underpins a positive safety culture. It should outline the company’s commitment to health and safety, and the responsibilities of management and employees alike.
On a practical level, it should detail the procedures for identifying and reporting hazards, incidents and near misses. It must be easily accessible to all employees, in visible locations such as a safety noticeboard, or signposted clearly on the company intranet. It should also be reviewed regularly to ensure it’s up to date.
#2: Undertake and give regular training on health and safety practices
Everyone in the organisation should receive training on the company’s health and safety policy, safe work practices and emergency procedures. This means employees, contractors, temporary staff – and yes, management too.
Health and safety training should be ongoing, and those in the organisation should receive regular refreshers to ensure they stay up to date. This will keep them not only informed, but also engaged in the health and safety culture generally.
In addition, companies must keep up with changing regulations and industry best practices, to ensure their safety policies and procedures remain effective and current.
If you’re responsible for health and safety in your workplace, you can learn how to promote a positive health and safety culture on the NEBOSH General Certificate course.
#3: Provide safety resources, assess risk and audit regularly
Obviously, to help maintain a safe workplace, adequate safety resources should be provided. This includes supplying personal protective equipment where required, keeping first-line equipment such as first aid kits, and defibrillators in certain workplaces. Companies must also ensure that all equipment, machinery and tools are maintained and inspected regularly to prevent accidents and injuries.
It’s also important to allocate the necessary time and funding for safety initiatives and training.
Regular risk assessments, safety audits and inspections can help identify hazards and areas for improvement. Audits should be conducted by trained safety professionals, or employees who are knowledgeable and trained about safety practices. The results should be shared with management and employees, and any identified hazards need to be addressed promptly.
#4: Encourage open communication
It’s good to talk. Employees should be encouraged to report any safety concerns, hazards and incidents to management. There should be a system in place for reporting and investigating incidents and near misses, and the results should be shared with all employees. It’s also worth conducting a root cause analysis to ensure similar incidents are avoided in future.
It’s important to involve employees in the safety program by seeking their input, feedback and suggestions for improvement. Employees are often the first to identify hazards and risks in their work environment, and their involvement in the safety program can help create a sense of ownership and accountability.
Management should also provide regular updates on safety performance, goals and initiatives to keep employees informed.
#5: Recognise and reward safe behaviour
Recognising and rewarding safe behaviour can help reinforce a positive safety culture. Employees should be recognised for following safety procedures, reporting hazards and taking steps to prevent incidents. Rewards can be as simple as verbal recognition, or as formal as inclusion in monthly or annual company awards.
Rewards and gamification can also help people in the organisation to find the health and safety program more appealing generally.
#6: Lead by example
It can’t be stressed enough that management plays a critical role in promoting a positive safety culture. Leaders should set the tone by modeling safe behaviours, following safety procedures and demonstrating a commitment to safety. When leaders prioritise safety, employees are more likely to follow suit.
#7: Promote a positive overall work environment
Fostering a positive work environment generally can help with its safety culture. Organisations which promote teamwork, encourage open communication and engender a sense of belonging and respect are likely to have a better safety record. Why? Well, when employees feel valued and supported, they’re more likely to take ownership of their safety and the safety of their colleagues.
#8: Emphasise the importance of mental health
Similarly, mental health is an essential component of overall health and safety. Companies should prioritise mental health initiatives, and provide support for employees who may be struggling. This includes providing access to mental health resources, promoting work-life balance, and reducing stress in the workplace.
Conclusion: What a positive health and safety culture achieves
By prioritising health and safety, companies can create a work environment where employees feel valued, supported and motivated to perform at the top of their abilities. After all, it’s good to know that someone has your best interests at heart.
A positive safety culture not only reduces accidents and injuries, but also enhances productivity, employee morale and overall business success. So it’s a win-win all round. It’s worth reminding stakeholders that investment in health and safety is not only good in itself, but ultimately contributes to the bottom line.
It should also be noted that promoting a positive health and safety culture isn’t a one-time effort, but an ongoing process. It requires commitment, dedication and continuous improvement. Companies must regularly evaluate their safety performance, seek feedback from employees, and take action to address any issues and improve their safety programs.
By following these principles, companies can create a work environment where employees feel safe, valued and motivated to perform their best. This will result in a more productive, successful and sustainable business – which is in everyone’s best interests.
Thinking of putting these steps into practice? Check out TSW’s health and safety courses to take your know-how to the next level.