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Health and Safety Culture: Are you Leading or Lagging?

Date: 14th September 2016

Your company’s health and safety culture is an extension of your overall organizational culture. It is rooted in your beliefs related to safety within the company. The term culture can be applied to biological, and anthropological sciences, and the world of business as well. A diverse term and concept for sure, the definitions of anthropological and organizational culture similarly focus on “beliefs”. Considering “safety” culture as an extension of organizational culture would indicate that safety culture is based on beliefs related to safety within the organization.

Where is your organization’s culture?

A question worth considering is where is your organization’s culture? What are its beliefs and expectations? Has your organization evolved towards a leading safety culture? Consider the following examples of a leading safety culture that actively promotes commitment to worker health and safety, and whether these examples may exist in your organization. Does your company:

  • Clearly outline and communicate safety beliefs and expectations throughout the organization.
  • Measure safety performance in relation to those beliefs and expectations.
  • Manage hazards and risk proactively.
  • Integrate safety into roles and responsibilities throughout the organization.
  • Ensure workers have access to, and follow safe work practices.
  • Provide additional safety support as and when needed.
  • Place the health and safety of their workers as an organizational priority.

Lagging organizations typically haven’t documented safety beliefs and expectations, making it difficult to manage risk and measure performance. As a result, safe habits and practices are less likely to be integrated into individual roles, resulting in a higher incidence of avoidable injury and accidents.

In practice, most organizations fall somewhere in between these two extremes.

Use the table below to determine where your organization can improve.




Safe Work Discussion

  • Talk about how work is performed
  • Are comfortable asking to walk through processes
  • Have employees that can confidently walk them through their safety processes
  • Aren’t clear on what safe work procedures exist
  • Don’t feel comfortable opening up about, or have trouble explaining, their company’s safe work procedures
  • Have confidently said “it won’t happen to me”

Hazard Management

  • Have implemented leading controls to identify good practice or opportunities to improve
  • Regularly perform safety inspections on equipment
  • Maintain a safe and healthy work environment
  • Are reactive to hazards instead of proactive
  • Put safety inspections on the backburner
  • Wonder why new recruits need training and don’t inherently “get” safety procedures

Safety Culture

  • Support their management teams
  • Aren’t afraid to talk safety & put safety first
  • See something wrong and aren’t afraid to speak up
  • Spend time now to prevent risk later
  • Find their management teams pester their leadership for support
  • Feel uneasy or uninformed when talking about safety
  • See something wrong but don’t say anything because they don’t know where to find the answer
  • –   Save time not learning, but pay for it in workplace accidents and loss

Challenges to building a safety culture.

People and organizations worldwide have proven that the evolution of culture, in any form, can result in the evolution of success. In an organization that is lacking a strong safety culture, employees may not be clear on what safe work procedures exist, what safe work procedures are required, or may be uncomfortable talking about them. Employee discomfort may be caused by the belief that safe work procedures don’t add value (skepticism), other colleagues not using or seeing value in them (the me-too mentality), or possibly because they don’t use them enough to be able to accurately describe them (lack of knowledge).

Not sure where to start?

If some of these leading organizational concepts sound good in theory but are a long way from where your organization is, you need to engage the right people and develop a plan. By booking your free 30-minute consultation, our experts will help determine how much assistance you need to become a safety leader in your industry. Improved culture is achievable, one evolutionary step at a time.

If you’re feeling overloaded in the face of all this information, don’t worry. That means that you’re probably realizing that your safety procedures aren’t as up to snuff as you thought. Contact us now for a FREE 30-minute consultation.

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