Let’s start by breaking down what “Safety Culture” means. The Collins online dictionary defines Culture as: “A culture is a particular society or civilization, especially considered in relation to its beliefs, way of life, or art.” The online Oxford dictionary: “The attitudes and behavior characteristic of a particular social group”. So we can agree that culture in summary is your attitude, behavior and way of life. Translated to the workplace, safety culture can be described by the phrase ”the way we do things around here”.
Now we revisit the question, what could cause the safety culture to decline within your company?
Management’s lack of commitment to safety. What management values most is usually the thing that gets the most attention and will always be completed.
Management that views safety as a cost and not as an investment. The misperception that lies with most managers is that safety is a dreaded expenditure and nothing more. Yet companies that invest in safety perform really well in business.
Managers who manage from their desks and rarely walk the floor, if ever. The floor is where the employees are as well as the most valuable information regarding safety.
Employees that are motivated by management to drive productivity only. Employees are then conditioned to think that productivity needs to keep running, no matter the cost. Even if that means putting lives on the line.
The only time management mentions the word safety is when it is linked to income. Safety talks and safety related items are only addressed and actioned out with urgency when prospective or existing clients is auditing the company or has requested a tour to walk the floor.
Companies with a high staff turnover. A decline in momentum and lack of continuity in their safety program will be the effects as employees never really buy into the system. Management won’t be enough time to empower the staff and will constantly have to start over.
Lack of Safety knowledge and expertise within a company. Most companies capitalize on staff and select an employee that has little to no safety experience and send them on a quick safety course expecting them run the entire program.
Companies that receive 100% on internal Health and Safety Audits and inspections. This is a very clear indication that staff are motivated on paper only. They do not actually observe and report any findings.
Companies that announce they have not had a single incident for the past 10 years. This means there is a bigger underlying issue, staff are scared to report any incidents or near-misses and management fails to see the benefit of reporting everything.
Management does not engage with staff regarding safety, they just instruct. Companies often just have one way communication leaving employees “stranded” with a wealth of information and solutions.
As the saying goes “Rome was not built in a day” similarly building a safety culture will take time. But once you have your targets and goals set out and start achieving them, expect to notice a very big improvement in your Safety Culture, Safety program and increased staff morale.
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