Developing a Culture of Safety

Developing a Culture of Safety

07th March 2016

We’re living in the 21st century and most companies nowadays recognise how important it is to have an effective culture of safety in the workplace.  It helps to ensure that your workforce are less likely to suffer an accident or injury at work, helps to reduce operational costs and increases the efficiency of ongoing operations.  A high quality safety management system is essential nowadays to manage safety on a day to day basis whatever industry you operate in.

The culture of an organisation can be defines as “the way in which we do things” and successful organisations tend to have strong cultures which dominate the structure and systems of the organisation.  The prevailing culture within an organisation acts to guide the behaviour of members while they go about their everyday work routines.  The more that members of an organisation behave or act in ways that appear to be natural and obvious, the more dominant that culture will become.  An organisation’s culture influences most aspects of work activity and affects group and individual behaviour at all levels throughout the organisation. 

While many companies will spend a lot of time, money and effort in a bid to improve safety, many of those companies still experience a base level of minor accidents that seem to resist all attempts to improve.  Although many of these accidents are a result of carelessness or poor attitudes to safety, the vast majority are actually triggered by deeply ingrained unsafe behaviours and this is what really needs to change if things are to improve in the future.

One of the most effective strategies when it comes to changing people’s behaviour and attitudes towards safety is to focus on unsafe behaviour.  A massive 80 – 95% of accidents are caused by unsafe behaviours so targeting unsafe behaviour is the first step towards developing a culture of safety within the workplace.  Unsafe behaviour is within people’s control so if a behavioural safety initiative identifies and focuses on particular sets of unsafe behaviours, people will become more aware of their potential to cause harm to themselves or others. 

Measuring safety behaviour on a daily basis will enable other safety-related issues to be identified and dealt with before an accident happens.  A collaborative approach which involves both management and employees will help to identify critical sets of safe and unsafe behaviours which can them be used to develop safety performance inventories which provide guidance for staff to monitor their own and colleagues’ ongoing safety behaviour. 

Traditionally attempts to change unsafe behaviours have involved either altering the physical environment or changing peoples’ attitudes with safety information campaigns, safety training, disciplinary procedures which force compliance, etc.  Behavioural safety initiatives are driven and shaped by the workforce and management so if the workforce is given a responsibility to identify and monitor their own safe and unsafe behaviours and set their own safety improvement targets it will create a blame-free, pro-active safety culture that will be successful in the long term. 

As with any type of improvement drive, careful planning and organising will be necessary and every person within the organisation will need to be involved in order to make real changes that last.