How to Foster a Safety Culture within an Organisation

Nebosh By Robert Weeks

Safety within the workplace safety is of vital importance to any organisation: it increases the efficiency of ongoing operations, manages risk, optimises control systems, streamlines processes, enhances the employer brand and reputation, creates trust, and ultimately helps to prevent injuries and long term ill-health.


In fact, a recent SmartMarket Report states that an improved safety culture decreases reportable injuries by 10%, increases the ability to contract new work by 10%, and increases the ability to retain staff by 18%.


As published by the Health and Safety Executive,  “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.”


But how does this concept reveal itself in our daily working lives? Safety culture is the group effort of an organisation to keep and maintain safety and prevent injuries on a day-to-day basis. This includes the measures taken, the involvement of your employees, the communication concerning safety, and the degree of importance that it is given within an organisation. Safety culture shows itself in the trust that people bring toward each other, as well as in the processes that follow incidents, the tools provided to employees, and even how crisis management is handled. A workplace with a well-planned safety program is therefore not only beneficial to employees and their experience in the workplace, but also to a company’s profitability.


Leadership – Organisations tend to do whatever the leaders of organisations highlight as their key priorities. So for health and safety to be seen as important, it must be led from the very top of the organisation and promoted as a core value.


Management 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.


Managers must be visible and 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.

NEBOSH Diplomates assist employers in protecting against injury and loss of life. This helps to maintain a healthy workforce, avoiding prosecution, litigation, absence costs and loss of reputation. ACT offer the NEBOSH Diploma qualification through either a taught course or e-learning method of study.


Competence – Whether it is an employee, manager or senior manager, everybody needs to have the right level of education around health and safety. NEBOSH Certification is a fantastic way to ensure that the leaders within an organisation are competent.


If managers and workers are to be effective in contributing to the correct health and safety behaviour at work it is essential that they are competent.  Ensuring competence improves health and safety behaviour because managers and workers become more aware of the health and safety aspects of work activities, their perception of risk and danger increases to an appropriate level and there should be an improvement in their attitude and motivation.  In addition, competent managers and workers will have a better understanding of the rules and procedures and are more likely to follow them.  The decisions made by competent managers are more likely to give proper regard to health and safety and lead to actions that support workers following rules and behaving appropriately.


Risk Visualisation – Conventional risk management is based very much on risk classification with attention focussed on evaluated risks being placed on a matrix rather than on the reduction of either reducing the likelihood of a hazardous event occurring (exposure to the hazard) or the severity of the hazardous event through mitigation.


Traditional methods for visualising risk have been in the forms in the form of models such as Fault Tree Analysis and Event Tree Analysis. In more recent years there has been significant growth in a number of both new and highly visual approaches to identifying, assessing, recording and managing risk. One of these is the Bowtie: a straight forward, logical, barrier-based risk visualisation medium that has found itself on the rapid ascent within high risk industries such aerospace, power generation and petro-chemical in the last five to ten years.


Bowties are founded on a barrier based approach to risk management, where the attention of the reviewer is focussed much more on the organisational efforts to reduce exposure to and mitigate the effects of identified risks. This change in focus means more active management of risk and less attention paid to the placement of risk onto a matrix. Likelihood and severity of risk can now be demonstrated and managed through the instigation of mitigating actions i.e. barriers as per J. Reasons “Swiss Cheese model”


Supply Chain Engagement – Inconsistency in attitude and beliefs around health, safety and well-being within the supply chain can be detrimental to both culture and performance.


Those organisations that recognise the importance of establishing a positive health and safety culture have arrangements in place for good management and worker (including the supply chains, where applicable) co-operation and consultation.


Co-operation and consultation with the supply chain can be difficult to achieve, sometimes because of the nature of the work or services being provided by the supply chain or because the extended lines of communication through the supply chain can make it difficult to organise.  However, both the organisation and the supply chain must work together and effectively co-ordinate their activities in order to ensure work and services provided can be carried out safely and without risks to health.


One of the ways of enabling co-operation and consultation to take place is to have regular meetings with the supply chain.  Alternatively, a representatives within the supply chain could attend the organisation’s health and safety committee.  The level of co-operation and consultation needed will depend on the activities the supply chain undertake and the numbers involved within an organisations supply chain.

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