Safety culture and behavior based safety is often perceived as a framework that can only be implemented by large organisations with dedicated resources to implement and manage the programme. This perception, however, is incorrect and by adopting an approach of on the-job training, task observations and the correcting of simple nonconformances can all have a positive effect on a company’s health and safety culture. The fact that approximately 90% of incidents can be attributed to employees or human failure demonstrates the importance of this approach to managing health and safety compliance.
A safety culture can be seen as the attitude and behavior of an organisation's employees towards the health and safety management system. A simple example would be the reporting of incidents such as near misses and at-risk behavior or the willingness to cooperate with management in ensuring a safe and healthy working environment.
As an organisation it is worth asking the following question:
Are you implementing occupational health & safety for the sake of compliance or do you care about the wellbeing of your staff and your operations?
If the answer is “for the sake of compliance” your safety culture is most probably not where it should be and your employees will behave in a manner that’s aligned to this attitude and approach.
An attitude of caring that is driven from top management, along with providing employees with the necessary skills and tools to operate in a safe and healthy manner, further drives a culture of ownership and participation across an organisation and ultimately translates to fewer unwanted incidents.
A step-by-step guide to enhancing the health and safety culture within your organization is reflected below:
Set clear goals and objectives for the company on how to improve the overall health and safety culture. These goals and objectives should align with the health & safety management programme and can be incorporated into the Health & Safety Policy.
Improve internal health and safety communication and ensure employees have access to the health and safety policies and procedures. Hold regular safety talks which can be run by the employees.
Upskill and train employees on key health and safety aspects within the organisation. This builds trust and shows the company’s commitment to health and safety management. If workers are not committed to the process then the overall culture will be negatively impacted.
Create a process of recognition and reward, where employees can receive incentives for their contribution to the health and safety culture. This may be linked to the reporting of near misses or providing suggestions on removing workplace hazards.
Monitor the success of the programme by tracking incidents. As the culture improves, so the number of reported incidents may increase as employees become more aware of the importance of reporting incidents and no longer fear any repercussions. To this end, it is important to have a “no blame culture” where there is an open platform to learn and engage with employees.
Ensure that there is an effective platform or procedure available for resolving nonconformances as the culture will be impacted if there is a perception that issues are not being resolved.
Management play a critical role in the underlying health and safety culture within a company. Management need to lead by example and there are too many examples of managers not following basic health and safety policies and procedures and yet expect the employees to comply. This destroys the culture and ultimately leads to unwanted and costly injuries.
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