Does Your Workplace Have An Effective Safety Culture?

Last weekend I took my 6 year old daughter to a place called PlayAvenue, a miniature indoor town where children can role play different jobs and life activities. Some kids chose to zoom around the plastic roads on miniature cars, some went shopping in the mini M&S, others donned feather boas and performed at the little theatre, visited the babies in the maternity unit or popped to the hair salon.

At one point my  daughter headed to the construction site and what she did next prompted the thought behind this article. She immediately dressed up in a high visability vest and put on a hard hat. This, to a 6 year old is the ‘costume’ a construction worker wears. This is our national safety culture in its simplest form. And this got me thinking about how naturally safety can be adopted in the workplace, if taking safety measures and reducing risk simply becomes the norm.

So what is the definition of Safety Culture. Well the ACSNI Human Factors Study Group: Third report – Organising for safety HSE Books 1993 states:

“The safety culture of an organisation is the product of individual and group values, attitudes, perceptions, competencies, and patterns of behaviour that determine the commitment to, and the style and proficiency of, an organisation’s health and safety management. 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.”

So safety culture is more than just the inclination of employees to comply with rules or act safety or unsafely. It’s the culture and style of management that is even more significant.

Does your workplace have an effective safety culture? Well these are some symptoms of poor safety cultural factors:

  • Widespread, routine procedural violations;
  • Failure to comply with the company’s own Safety Systems;
  •  Management decisions that appear consistently to put production or cost before safety.

And in contrast, aspects of an effective culture:

  • Management commitment.

This commitment produces higher levels of motivation and concern for health and safety throughout the organisation. It is indicated by the proportion of resources (time, money, people) and support allocated to health and safety management and by the status given to health and safety versus production, cost etc. The active involvement of senior management in the health and safety system is very important.

  • Visible management.

Managers need to be seen to lead by example when it comes to health and safety. Good managers appear regularly on the ‘shop floor’, talk about health and safety and visibly demonstrate their commitment by their actions – such as stopping production to resolve issues. It is important that management is perceived as sincerely committed to safety. If not, employees will generally assume that they are expected to put commercial interests first, and safety initiatives or programmes will be undermined by cynicism.

  • Good communications between all levels of employee.

In a positive culture questions about health and safety should be part of everyday work conversations. Management should listen actively to what they are being told by employees, and take what they hear seriously.  Active employee participation in safety is important, to build ownership of safety at all levels and exploit the unique knowledge that employees have of their own work. This can include active involvement in workshops, risk assessments, plant design etc. In companies with a good culture, you will find the story from employees and management being consistent, and safety is seen as a joint exercise.

If you have any concerns about the safety culture in your workplace then you must raise them with management and company decision makers. If hold one of these roles and feel you need some guidance to improve the culture of Health and Safety in your workplace then give Prosafe (UK) Ltd Consultants a call on 01724 712342 or email