What Exactly Is Safety Culture?
The safety culture in an organization is the result of the combination of company and employee values, their attitudes, abilities, and behavior that collectively determine the health and safety management within the workplace. It is the trust and importance given to safety and health standards by employees that ensures the adherence to any policies in place.
How Safety Fits Into a Company’s Overall Culture
The organizational culture needs to support safety to keep employees safe from injuries and illnesses. While management programs may provide a safety framework, the only way it can truly be effective is if employees value safety and adopt the right behaviors.
Since a culture once established is nearly impossible to change, it is important to set the right organizational rules to follow right from the start. All current and new employees should be updated on these rules during training sessions (for current employees), and orientation sessions (for new employees).
For these safety rules to be effective, they have to be followed by higher management as well. For instance, if all employees in the factory are meant to wear hard hats and the manager is seen without one, it is likely to set a precedent of shirking the rules designed specifically to keep the employees safe from injury.
When the organization develops an unspoken culture of bending the rules to suit the employees, it is not only dangerous for them, but also the work they’re responsible for. For instance, any shortcut taken in the assembly line process, especially for electrical or chemical work, could lead to large scale damage to the plant! This usually happens when a faster turnaround is considered to be significantly more important than safety.
Aspects of an Effective Safety Culture
Essentially, a safety culture doesn’t just include the employee’s personal safety but also technical aspects. This means having a complete 360 approach where the work methodology and the work environment are designed to be completely injury-free and where the work staff is trained to comply with the set standards.
Making It Loud & Clear
Just like you’ve got your mission and vision spread throughout the organization, you can also spread safety reminders in the same way. Posters showing the appropriate dress code, such as the need to wear glasses and hard hats at all times in certain areas, using cautionary signs during sensitive work, and so on are great ways to keep your employees safe from injuries.
Assessing & Implementing Safety Culture
Whether you’ve made a subset in your HR Department or created a separate health and safety department, the first step is to see what regulations are already in play and how employees perceive them. Questionnaires and interviews can be used to obtain this insight, which will not only tell you which safety practices are actually being followed, but also what the general mindset is when it comes to these practices.
Accordingly, the new safety strategy will be devised, and training sessions will be conducted. During the data collection stage, be ready to receive unexpected and negative responses. In most cases, you’ll notice that the department where the senior management is lax about the rules will have employees that don’t follow any of the safety rules set by the company.
Your new approach should tackle all tiers within the company:
- The senior and middle management
- Contractual employees – this one is particularly important to tackle since their perceptions are likely to be completely different from the rest
Here are some sample questions that are likely to be a part of your employee questionnaire:
- What are the company’s policies and goals for safety and health?
- How does your supervisor support these policies?
- How does the higher management in general support these?
- Have you received any training for safe job practices?
- Have you been equipped with the necessary safety tools required for your job, and if so, do you know how to use them?
- Is there any implemented policy or a supervisor in charge who convinces you to follow these safety rules?
- Do you have the option to bring forward a safety hazard that needs to be addressed?
- What do you feel can be done to improve the safety standards in this company?
Through your research, you should be able to gather enough data to identify where the gaps lie, what the organizational culture towards safety is, and how you can change the safety perceptions in your organization.
How Can You Improve Safety Culture?
Established office culture can be nearly impossible to change. In order for there to be any change at all, you need to change the organizational behavior and norms – tackling individuals will divide the workforce.
The most common way to stimulate this change is to make it a two-way channel – training employees and getting their input on safety and health regulations. Gone are the days when hierarchal management was the way to go.
Training should be designed in a way that workers actually understand the message being sent and feel the need to implement these messages. For instance, if an employee doesn’t even understand the concept of workplace hazards, they won’t be able to report them even if they’re happening all around.
Similarly, supervisors need to be trained on performing root cause analysis to find out the major cause/s of any large scale accidents that may have happened in the organization.
Essentially, for the widespread growth of health and safety culture, training, retraining, and reinforcing the set policies is pivotal.
At the end of the day, while there are various tools and approaches that an organization can take to develop a safety culture that is strictly followed, this change is only possible when the workplace recognizes and embraces the importance of following the designed policies.
Reach out to your employees in the language and style they will understand. If your research shows that health and safety standards are bleak and injuries and accidents are occurring more frequently than normal, it is time for you to evaluate your company’s safety culture, and revamp it if necessary. Contact GSC Onsite-Services to see what your company can do to improve its employee’s safety and maximize productivity.