BUILDING A SAFETY CULTURE
A safety culture is an organizational culture that places a high level of importance on safety beliefs, values and attitudes—and these are shared by the majority of people within the company or workplace. It can be characterized as ‘the way we do things around here’.
It is a subset of the overall organizational or company culture. Many companies talk about ‘safety culture’ when referring to the inclination of their employees to comply with rules or act safety or unsafely.
A positive safety culture exists when employees understand the importance of safety and exhibit positive safety behaviors. Examples of positive safety behaviors include wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) without being asked, completing risks assessments for all jobs and reporting all incidents.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), developing a strong safety culture has the single greatest impact on accident reduction of any workplace practice. Therefore, developing a safety culture should be a top priority for the managers and supervisors at your organization.
OBJECTIVES OF A SAFETY CULTURE
Safety culture is the set of shared attitudes, beliefs, and practices demonstrated by workers at all levels of the company. A positive safety culture connects everyone in the company around a common goal to measurably reduce near misses and incidents. It goes beyond following safety procedures and rules.
In a positive safety culture, all employees are accountable for maintaining standards and procedures. This means management enforces safety standards and understands the requirements for a safe workplace, while on-site employees follow those standards and ensure their colleagues follow them, too.
Safety Culture is about People, Practices and Environment. As organizations and workplaces we should endeavor to be strong culture based.
What does strong culture-based safety mean?
Let’s take a look at each word in turn…
• Culture: the shared values, beliefs and attitudes of a given group, which show themselves as behavior.
• Based: the main principle or starting point.
• Safety: people not getting injured or killed.
A safety culture consists of shared beliefs, practices and mind-sets that exist at an organization and form an atmosphere of attitudes that shape behavior in a positive way. An organization’s safety culture is a direct result of the following factors:
• Management and employee norms, assumptions, and beliefs
• Management and employee attitudes
• Values, myths, and stories
• Policies and procedures
• Supervisor priorities, responsibilities, and accountability
• Production and bottom line pressure versus quality issues
• Actions, or lack thereof, to correct unsafe behaviors
• Employee training and motivation
• Employee involvement and buy-in during the process
A company’s safety culture is a direct reflection of the organization’s overarching culture and the people who work in it. As a result, most employees will generate their perceptions of safety and its importance based on the attitude their employer projects.
IMPORTANCE OF A SAFETY CULTURE IN HSE
Undertaking safety culture improvements shows your commitment to the wellbeing of your staff but also offers measurable benefits: –
Accelerated safety culture improvement
Reduced accident and injury rates
Reduction in absenteesm and seek offs.
Increased employee productivity.
Helps build perception of a strong company brand and image
OBSTACLES TO A SAFETY CULTURE
Lack of cleanliness
Ignorance of safety rules
Lack of work preparation
Unscheduled work without adequate information
Inadequate risk assessment.
Lack or inadequate training
Benefits of Safety Culture in the Workplace
Creating and maintaining a safety culture is a lengthy and elaborate process that requires considerable investments. For this reason, smaller organizations that don’t deal with immediate hazards are slow on implementing it. In reality, however, having a sound and sustainable culture of safety offers numerous advantages that justify the effort in the long term. Here is a rundown of the most apparent benefits.
1. Preparedness: When the staff is familiarized with the most likely emergency scenarios, they can deal with the situation in a fast and efficient manner. Even better, recognizing the threat early will help prevent the emergency from happening in the first place.
2. Decision-making: The ability to analyze the situation and make relevant decisions will not only reduce the losses from accidents but will also improve the company’s processes during regular operations.
3. Accountability: Understanding the consequences of one’s actions as well as the ability to deal with the situation adds to the sense of responsibility and encourages a proactive position.
4. Stability: Establishing a safe environment means fewer accidents in the long run and, by extension, more predictable and reliable performance.
5. Employee retention: The perception of a safe working environment improves employee satisfaction and contributes to the efficiency of HR practices.
6. Regulatory compliance: The presence of transparent safety policies improves the results of audits, simplifies reporting, and minimizes the chance of being fined.
So, while the culture of safety does require some resource allocation, it eventually pays off from the strategic perspective, especially once the effect is sustainable.
PRINCIPLES OF A CULTURE OF SAFETY
a) Shared respect
b) Shared meaning
c) Shared knowledge.
ELEMENTS OF A SAFETY CULTURE
Below are the 5 Key Elements of Workplace Safety Culture, which can contribute to creating a positive safety culture in the organization:
• Risk Awareness.
• Fair and Just culture.
• Management Commitment.
In summary, these three elements influence safety:-
Evaluation, Education, and Enforcement also known as the Es of Safety.
TYPES OF SAFETY CULTURES
There are four major categories of safety culture: –
1. Forced culture.
The forced culture uses bribes and threats to motivate employees. “It’s a carrot and stick culture” where health and safety officers are seen as the “safety police” because code enforcement is the name of the game. Health and safety officers are there to catch employees doing something wrong and write them up. The problem is that most organizations that have forced—or “got you”—cultures receive minimal job performance from workers because fear does not cultivate high-level performance,
2. Protective culture.
The protective culture implements safety programs for employees; its main feature is that it produces endless “policies and procedures,”. When a worker violates a policy or procedure, management’s first reaction is to write more policies and procedures. Thus, the risk of having this type of culture is the creation of an unending flow of regulations that leave everyone confused. In addition, protective cultures produce average [job] performance within an industry.
3. Involved culture.
The involved culture is characterized by high levels of safety training sessions held for employees but not attended by top management. Morale is higher at organizations with involved cultures because management is less interested in monitoring behaviors and prefers to “monitor by performance.” However, involved cultures that are “doing OK” run the risk of settling for OK, which supports the notion that “the good can be the enemy of great,”
4. Integral culture.
An integrated safety culture implies that both managers and operational staff feel responsible for keeping the system safe through their activities and, to this end, interact with all of the other actors involved. The integral culture is characterized by high levels of safety training for employees—training sessions that are attended by top management, including the CEO. Organizations with integral safety cultures are characterized by safety officers that have budgets and authority. Safety officers need to develop relationships with the highest level of company executives with the goal of getting senior managers excited about achieving high-level safety cultures within a firm. When senior managers get excited about achieving high levels of safety culture, the firm likely will devote the time and money needed to reach the goal.
The largest influences/Domains on safety culture are:
• Management commitment and style;
• Employee involvement;
• Training and competence;
• Compliance with procedures
• Organizational learning.
• Effective teamwork
• Active communication
• Direct and timely feedback.
PILLARS OF SAFETY
a) Technical safety
b) Management systems
c) Human and organizational factors (HOF)
The Four Baselines Of Safety
• Awareness of safety hazards.
• Stay informed – Open Communication
• Complete training.
• Identify unsafe conditions.
Workplace safety tips
• Use tools, equipment and machinery properly. …
• Report any unsafe conditions. …
• Wear all necessary safety gear. …
• Keep your workplace clear from clutter. …
• Stay hydrated. …
• Practice good posture when sitting or lifting. …
• Take regular breaks. …
• Be aware of your surroundings.
Top safety policies for any workplace.
• Incident reporting policy.
• Drug and alcohol policy.
• Safe driving policies.
• Personal protective equipment (PPE) policy.
• Lockout/tagout policy and procedures.
• Transitional duty policy.
• Fire Safety policy.
• Waste management policy.
A GOOD SAFETY CULTURE
A good safety culture exists when everyone, irrespective of the position or place, have inculcated a discipline to follow the rules and are inspired to work together for a greater, common good.
High accident rates are a warning sign of a poor health and safety culture. Even in high-risk industries, no workplace should be unsafe. So, if there are lots of accidents, even if they are minor, your health and safety culture needs addressing.
Decision-making in high-hazard environments is often affected by uncertainty and ambiguity; it is characterized by trade-offs between multiple, competing objectives.
Managers and regulators need conceptual tools to help them develop risk management strategies, establish appropriate compromises and justify their decisions in such ambiguous settings.
To have a strong safety culture, it’s important to have an overall workplace culture that fosters positive relationships and outcomes (e.g., respect, integrity, ethics, a shared sense of duty, etc.). To be truly effective, your safety program needs to be layered on these existing cultural principles.
When a strong, successful safety culture, such as in the Integral Culture model, is in place, everyone feels responsible for safety and pursues it on a daily basis by going beyond the “call of duty” to identify unsafe conditions and behaviors and intervene to correct them. Additionally, co-workers look out for one another and point out unsafe behaviors to each other. As a result, a company with a strong safety culture typically experiences few at-risk behaviors and, consequently, experiences lower accident rates, lower turn-over rates, lower absenteeism, and higher productivity.
It’s the sum of all of the things that go into making a workplace safe, such as:
1. Safety policies and procedures: These are well-researched and documented guidelines on what one should do in certain situations. For example, they may include instructions for dealing with lifting heavy loads or using machinery safely.
2. Training & Coaching programs: Both Employees and Management leaders must be trained and upskilled on how to perform their jobs safely, including using equipment properly and be aware of associated risks, hazards, and control measures that are available.
3. Management commitment and leadership: Management plays a vital role in creating a safety culture by setting expectations for employees to follow safety policies and procedures, providing training when necessary, encouraging workers to use safe work practices on the job and rewarding workers who demonstrate good performance in this area.
Promoting a Safety Culture at Your Organization
The development of a safety culture can be described as a journey, not a destination. It must be effectively managed over time, focusing on continuous improvement and reinforcement of critical behaviors.
Use these strategies to develop a culture of safety:
• The first step to building a safety culture is to develop your awareness of the risks, hazards and control measures in your workplace. This will help identify and eliminate any potential problems before they become serious. Once you have a clear picture of what could go wrong, you can start planning ways to prevent workplace incidents and improve the safety of your employees.
• Make Safety a habit. Implementing behavioral change needs to happen from top to bottom starting with Leadership followed by in-person interventions with employees and contract workers. This means that everyone needs to understand the concept of Behaviour Based Safety Observations, how to report incidents, take appropriate actions when they see a safety violation or potential hazard, and ensure that they follow all safety rules and regulations. If you want people to report non-compliance, then it’s important that they know what constitutes a non-compliance. That means training them on what it means to identify compliance issues, recognize risks, know the hazards and consequences and take corrective measures appropriately.
• Integrate Safety KPIs into Job Responsibilities. Make sure that everyone in the organization understands their role in creating a safe culture. This is especially important for frontline managers and supervisors. Create and integrate Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) into Objectives and Key Results(OKRs) and set safety-specific goals with recognition and rewards. You need to ensure that everyone understands the importance of safety and see it as part of their job description. You can do this by having regular safety meetings, where you discuss new safety policies and procedures and the actions every individual needs to follow according to the safety guidelines.
• Reinforce the Right Behaviors. Your company needs to focus on behavior — what people do, not just what they say. You have to get people engaged at the highest levels of your organization, from executives to managers and supervisors, who set the tone for others on safety issues. You may want to refer some of the proven frameworks for habit-formation and behavioral change have been used by HR Managers and Coaches in instilling the right mindset for safe work culture.
• Create A Feedback Loop. Feedback loops help us identify problems before they become big issues. If you want your organization’s culture to be strong and healthy, create feedback loops between employees and management through regular meetings or check-ins.
• Develop a “No Blame” Culture. All too often, workers are afraid of retaliation when they point out potential problems or unsafe conditions in their work environment. This fear can lead to silence by employees who witness unsafe practices or situations that could lead to injury or illness. If you want your organization’s safety culture to succeed, you need people who feel comfortable bringing up concerns without fear of retribution. When employees know they won’t be blamed for taking reasonable steps to keep themselves and others safe, they are more likely to report hazards and injuries, even if they were involved in them. Employees should feel comfortable reporting unsafe conditions without fear of retaliation from supervisors or peers — no matter who was at fault.
• Recognize and Reward Positive Behaviors. You need incentives and rewards for those who promote safety within your organization. It’s important that these rewards be based on actual results, such as reduced injuries or illnesses, rather than simply rewarding everyone equally regardless of their performance in promoting safe practices.
You can provide employees with an online safety management tools through which they can report the safety incidents, violations and unsafe practices in the workplace. This will also help you easily keep track of the employees who promote safety practices and strive to make the workplace safe.
• Develop a Top-Down Approach. The best way to develop a strong safety culture is through leadership from the top down. If leaders don’t support safety by example, their employees won’t either.
If you’re a leader and want to create a safety culture in your organization, start by asking yourself: What is my personal safety commitment? Can I model it for others? If not, why not? What can I do to change that?
Similarly, make sure that the other people at the top management are taking action as well. Ask them what they’re doing to build a safety culture in their departments or teams — and hold them accountable for their actions.
• Regularly Measure the Level of Safety
An excellent way to measure progress is through quarterly surveys of employees about their perception of safety in their work environment. You can also conduct anonymous interviews with employees from different levels of your organization to find out what’s working well and where there are gaps in communication or training.
It’s important to measure performance against key indicators that reflect the health of your organization’s culture — such as turnover rates and injury rates. These metrics will help you identify areas where improvements are needed so that everyone feels safe at work every day.
• Develop a site safety vision including key policies, goals, measures, and strategic and operational plans.
• Implement a “buddy system” in which experienced individuals pair up with newer workers. The experienced workers can serve as role models for newer workers and can demonstrate safe work procedures.
• Encourage all employees to watch out for others. In doing so, develop safety responsibilities for all levels of the organization.
• Align management and supervisors by establishing a shared vision of safety and health goals and objectives versus production.
• Hold management accountable for visibly being involved, setting the proper example, and leading a positive change for safety and health.
• Have management make themselves available during worker orientation and introduction sessions.
• Demonstrate a commitment to employee health and safety by implementing safe work practices and prescribing the mentality that unsafe actions are unacceptable.
• Make health and safety part of workplace communications.
• Encourage workers to report health and safety concerns that they encounter and respond to their concerns in a timely fashion. Also, provide multiple paths for employees to bring suggestions, concerns, and problems forward.
• Develop a system for tracking and ensuring the timeliness of hazard corrections.
• Ensure that the organization has a system for reporting near-miss accidents, injuries, and the need for first aid.
• Maintain safety equipment and ensure that employees wear or use it correctly.
• Revise incentives and disciplinary systems to accommodate safety and health concerns.
SIGNS YOU HAVE AN AWESOME SAFETY CULTURE
There is visible leadership commitment at all levels of the organization.
All employees throughout the organization exhibit a working knowledge of health and safety topics.
There is a clear definition of the desired culture the organization wishes to achieve.
There is a lack of competing priorities – safety comes in first every time!
There is visible evidence of a financial investment in health and safety.
Opportunities for improvement are identified and resolved before a problem occurs.
There is regular, facility-wide communication on health and safety topics.
A fair and just discipline system is in place for all employees.
There is meaningful involvement in health and safety from everyone in the organization.
Managers spend an adequate amount of time out on the shop floor, where the people are.
Participation rates are at an all-time high, indicating that employees are highly motivated and your marketing of health and safety initiatives is effective.
Employees are actively engaged in health and safety initiatives, producing tangible results for your company.
Your employees report high job satisfaction due to the company’s commitment to their health and well-being.
Safety is the first item on the agenda of every meeting.
Employees feel comfortable reporting safety issues to their supervisors.
Regular, detailed audits of the company’s health and safety program are conducted by an external auditor.
Rewards and recognition of good behaviors are regularly given and serve to motivate continued health and safety performance.
Safety is a condition of employment.
Managers and supervisors respond positively to safety issues that are raised.
Safety is viewed as an investment, not a cost.
A high standard exists for accurate and detailed reporting of injuries and illnesses – nothing is swept under the rug!
There is a concrete definition of what success looks like for your health and safety program.
The organization has the willpower to make major changes when necessary.
Safety issues are dealt with in a timely and efficient manner.
All employees throughout the organization are empowered with the necessary resources and authority to find and fix problems as they see them.
I have observed with time that developing strong safety cultures have the single greatest impact on accident reduction of any process. It is for this single reason that developing these cultures should be top priority for all managers and supervisors.
Creating an effective safety culture is an integral part of your loss control efforts, good brand/image building and staff welfare program.
A company with a strong safety culture typically experiences few at-risk behaviors, consequently they also experience low accident rates, low turn-over, low absenteeism, and high productivity. They are usually companies who are extremely successful by excelling in all aspects of business and excellence.
Creating a safety culture takes time. It is frequently a multi-year process. A series of continuous process improvement steps can be followed to create a safety culture. Employer and employee commitment are hallmarks of a true safety culture where safety is an integral part of daily operations.
A company at the beginning of the road toward developing a safety culture may exhibit a level of safety awareness, consisting of safety posters and warning signs. As more time and commitment are devoted, a company will begin to address physical hazards and may develop safety recognition programs, create safety committees, and start incentive programs.
Top management support of a safety culture often results in acquiring a safety director, providing resources for accident investigations, and safety training. Further progress toward a true safety culture uses accountability systems.
These systems establish safety goals, measure safety activities, and charge costs back to the units that incur them. Ultimately, safety becomes everyone’s responsibility, not just the safety director’s. Safety becomes a value of the organization and is an integral part of operations. Management and employees are committed and involved in preventing losses. Over time the norms and beliefs of the organization shift focus from eliminating hazards to eliminating unsafe behaviors and building systems that proactively improve safety and health conditions. Employee safety and doing something the right way takes precedence over short term production pressures. Simultaneously, production does not suffer but is enhanced due to the level of excellence developed within the organization.
Safety is both an individual and collective responsibility that starts with Me/You/Us and is as simple as ABC (Always Be Careful). You have to always be Responsible, Resilient, Vigilant, Proactive, Cautious, Alert and Aware of your surroundings.
As an Ambassador of Safety my mission is to help build a culture of safety at all places and all the time by creating awareness and equipping people with knowledge and skills that help them Prevent, Prepare for and Respond to Incidents in a manner that is Safe, Prompt and Effective as well as provide the Relevant, Appropriate and quality Safety Equipment.
You can contact me Email firstname.lastname@example.org , WhatsApp +254724036078 or login to www.ambstevembugua.org and let us join hands in the building of a Safety Culture. #SafetyFirst #SafetyCulture