Safety culture refers to the ways that safety issues are addressed in workplace. It often reflects “the attitude”, benefits, perceptions and values that employees share in relation to safety. The safety culture of an organization and its safety management system are closely related.
Organizations with a positive safety culture are characterized by “communications founded on mutual trust, by shared perceptions of the importance of safety and by confidence in the efficacy of preventive measures.” This has led to increasing recognition of the importance of considering safety culture in successful management of safety performance.
Safety Culture Importance at Workplace
Today, it has generally become accepted that a high proportion of accidents, incidents and near misses on unsafe acts (behaviors) by people, for example, improper equipment use, not following procedures, positions/reactions of people, housekeeping. But, rather than being the instigators, it is typically the case that unsafe (organizational) conditions, that have been long developing and that have been inherited by people, represent the root cause(s) of accidents and incidents. Examples of systemic organizational weaknesses include lack of supervision, ill-defined roles and responsibilities, inadequate training/assessment/procedures/instructions, poor leadership and safety communications, competing job demands, ineffective planning and safe systems of work. Such examples are often cited as symptoms of a poor safety culture. That’s why we need the safety culture in industry.
Levels of Safety Culture
Safety culture having 5 levels and these are as follows:-
- Safety focus is on technical and procedural solutions and compliance with regulations.
- Safety not seen as a key business risk.
- Safety department perceived as being primarily responsible for safety.
- Many accidents seen as unavoidable.
- Most front line staff not interested in safety – only used as a lever on other issues.
- Safety seen as a business risk and management time and effort devoted to accident prevention.
- Safety focus is on adherence with rules, procedures and engineering controls.
- Accidents seen as preventable.
- Management perceives that the majority of accidents are solely due to the unsafe behavior of front-line staff.
- Safety performance measured with lagging indicators (eg. injury rates).
- Safety incentives based on reducing loss time incidents.
- Senior managers only become involved in health and safety if accidents increase; punishment likely to be used.
- Accident rates are near the industry sector average – but tend to have more serious accidents.
- Accident rates are low, but have reached a plateau.
- Organization realizes employee involvement is essential for safety improvement.
- Management recognize that a wide range of factors lead to accidents – often stemming from management decisions.
- A significant proportion of front-line employees are willing to work with management to improve health and safety.
- The majority of staff accepts personal responsibility for their own health and safety.
- Safety performance is actively monitored and the data used.
- The majority of staff is convinced that health and safety is important – from both a moral & economic view point.
- Management recognizes that a wide range of factors lead to accidents – and the root causes are likely to stem from management decisions.
- Front-line staff accepts responsibility for their own and others’ health and safety.
- The importance of all employees feeling valued and treated fairly is recognized.
- The organization makes significant effort into proactive measures to prevent accidents.
- Safety performance is actively monitored using all data available.
- A healthy lifestyle is promoted and non-work accidents are also monitored.
Level-5 Continually Improving
- The prevention of all injuries or harm to employees is a core company value.
- The organization has a sustained period (years) without a recordable accident or high potential incident – but there is no feeling of complacency.
- The organization uses a range of (leading and lagging) indicators to monitor performance but it is not performance driven – it has confidence in its safety processes.
- The organization strives to be better and find better hazard control approaches.
- All employees share the belief that health and safety is a critical aspect of their job and accept that prevention of non-work injuries is important.
- The company invests considerable effort in promoting health and safety at home.
How to Develop the Safety Culture
The entire workplace relentlessly purchases the identification and remediation of hazards:
To develop a safety culture we have to correct the hazards quickly as possible and maintaining the good communications around hazards will not only create a safer workplace, it will improve your employee efficiency and engagement.
Employee at all levels is equally comfortable stopping each other when at risk behavior is observed and recognizing each other when safe behavior is observed:
While good constructive feedback is important for improvement, positive reinforcement for safe behavior is essential for building safe habits. The more actively involved all levels of the organization are delivering positive reinforcement for behaviors with the desired culture, the stronger the culture will be
Safety is integrated into day-to-day work:
It is not treated as something separate to the discussed during weekly safety meeting or only at shift change. Safety should be part of every conversion and considered in every decision
The workforce is characterized by good relationship at all levels:
Trust is an important component for an effective safety culture. Employees who have good working relationships with their management are more likely to speak openly and honestly about what are working, what is not and what we will need to change.
When discipline is used disproportionately in relation positive consequences it leads to lower morale, reduce trust power productivity, less team work and lack of engagement.
What happen without Safety Culture?
Safety culture is an important part of any industry. A company’s safety record also has implications for its public image and can affect how the community perceives its business and financial performance. Within the utilities industry, public perception is critically important. One front page story regarding a workplace injury or accident can easily damage the reputation of a business. Public utility commissions will consider both injury rates and public perception when making decisions about rate requests and policy assessments. Therefore, a poor safety record and a bad reputation could be cause for a commission to grant a less favorable rate increase.
Benefits of a Good Safety Culture:
There are 10 key points mentioned below:-
If people are fit and healthy they’re at work and making the contribution they’re paid for. Employers are getting some bang for their buck.
Lower wage bills:
Eliminate the doubled-up costs of sick pay for the absentees and overtime cover to fill the gaps and companies are saving a packet.
Reduced repairs & re-working:
When things get done right first time, less injury, damage or out of spec product means less costs for repairs, re-working and waste disposal.
It’s a deep rooted desire in us all to feel safe. If employees feel safe and secure at work, they’ll be happy.
Lower staff turnover:
If they don’t think the grass is greener anywhere else, companies will be paying a lot less to replace workers who’ve left.
Reduced insurance claims:
Injury and illness claims, property damage and business interruption all cost money. Investing money to reduce claims will save money in the long term.
Reduced insurance premiums:
Insurers are increasingly using measures such as the Corporate Health & Safety Performance Index to assess the risks of insuring businesses and set premiums accordingly. The better the Health & Safety performance, the lower the premium. And not an annoying price comparison adverts in sight!
Improved productivity, quality & profitability:
In their White Paper on “Well Being in the Workplace”, Messrs. Harter, Schmidt and Keyes recognized that, “the presence of positive workplace perceptions and feelings are associated with higher business unit customer loyalty, higher profitability, higher productivity and lower rates of staff turnover”. Want some proof? Here is a strong business case close to our hearts.
More satisfied clients & stakeholders:
If quality, efficiency, staff relations are all exemplary a business will have a reputation to reflect that. Without that reputation, business will probably suffer. After a major incident which had direct costs of £1 million, an explosives company estimated they went on to lose £6 million of revenue due to damages to their reputation and customer confidence.