Today we've got our latest post on workplace health and safety cultures for you. You may remember in previous posts we've looked at:
Here we discussed what makes up both a positive and a negative safety culture, as well as taking a look at the figures behind the culture - 30.4 MILLION working days were lost due to work-related illness and workplace injury in the 2015/16 period according to the Health and Safety Executive.
In post number two we looked at the quantitative benefits of a positive safety culture which include: reduced staff turnover, reduced training (and re-training) costs, reduced absenteeism, potential insurance claims (and subsequent renewals) and possible increases in sales.
We also looked at the qualitative benefits: view how your stakeholders view health and safety by looking at your safety culture. A happier workforce, results in improved productivity, quality and profitability.
3.How to identify and replace a blame culture Working in a blame culture isn't pleasant, I imagine most of us have been there, I know I have been. The fear of making a mistake, safety related or otherwise a blame culture can quickly turn into a toxic environment where management and staff have no trust for each other. In the long run this will damage productivity, profitability and will result in great members of staff leaving your organisation. Post 3 looked at identifying this type of culture.
Here we looked at the role of the managing director, the health and safety director and safety managers/coordinators. Here we emphasised the fact that everyone has a role to play within the company culture.
In order to develop a positive safety culture, you have to revert to the beginning, building from the ground up. First of all a general survey of all staff (and repeated annually) to gain an insight into the current views of your staff, followed by a basic SWOT analysis. We also reviewed the tips from the European Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA). Following this we have also looked at the basics of creating a Safety Management System (SMS).
So, we have made a good start in developing a positive safety culture, we've replaced our blame culture or at least made a start. The question now is - how do I promote my positive safety culture? And what's going to detract from it going forward?
Eradicating any leftover negative culture
It is vital that while promoting the positive safety culture you have invested in and nurtured, that you are always on the lookout for signs of a negative culture re-emerging. Key signs to look out for:
- Failures of compliance with the new and existing health and safety systems
- Re-appearance of a blame culture
- Managers placing low priority on health and safety training
- Risks and the consequences of said risks being rated as a manager hopes they would be and not as they actually are
- Decisions being made by management which place the interests, be it financial or otherwise, of customers, shareholders, any other stakeholder above the health, safety and wellbeing of their staff. This includes cutting costs which place people at risk
Now for the reason we're all here: promoting your positive safety culture
So, we've reconstructed our culture and we're happy with the direction we're heading. But how do we promote it? By promote it I mean both:
- Internal promotion - how do we ensure that all of our colleagues know about and support our shiny new culture?
- External promotion - how do we make sure our external stakeholders, such as both existing and potential customers and suppliers know how seriously we take creating a positive safety culture? Why do these matter? Whether you have experienced issues previously, which have caused public relations damage, or if you simply want to demonstrate your commitment to your staff, promoting your safety culture is a great way to influence customers and suppliers to work with you.
We're a big fan of internal promotion - but how do we do it? First of all we need to encourage our staff to challenge deviations from the accepted health and safety practices. Colleagues should feel comfortable speaking to their managers about their concerns, even if it is their manager who is deviating from the standard. If the colleague doesn't feel comfortable speaking directly to their manager about it, they should know exactly who to approach. This should be written down and displayed on notice boards.
We also need to be making visible commitments to health and safety. This should be done at all levels. These commitments should also be written up and displayed, let everyone know how much you've invested, how your figures have changed. Have your accidents and near misses decreased by 50%? Then tell everyone!
The workforce also needs to be involved in a meaningful way, joint discussions between management and staff to review any issues facing the organisation and to look for reasonable and practicable suggestions. The annual safety survey is a vital part of this, couple this with being proactive around health and safety issues, when an employee raises a concern, act quickly without waiting for an accident or near miss to occur.
Next up - training. This applies for both new and existing members of staff. New staff inductions should be placing a priority on health and safety training and emphasising the safety culture which has been created. This training should also translate to booster sessions for existing members of staff. Here we're working on a word-of-mouth model, especially for large organisations.
Finally, everything - from where you've been in terms of accident and near miss figures as well as common complaints to where you are now, with current figures, general survey results and any issues currently being faced, to where you want to go - what are your long term goals for your safety culture?
Be as clear and transparent with your staff as you possibly can. Your notice board should also display policies and procedures. Essentially your notice board is a visual display of your health and safety journey, you shouldn't be trying to hide from your past even if your company doesn't have the best track record. At the end of the day, your staff, particularly those that have been with you for a long time know what's happened in the past, they know the accident numbers and are the ones who are most aware of a previous blame culture.
Show everyone the progress your organisation has made.
- Willingness and comfort to challenge deviations from the standard, this should be displayed in writing
- Visible commitment to health and safety from all levels of the organisation
- Be proactive
- Health and safety booster sessions
- New staff inductions
- Safety and wellbeing notice board
Following internal promotion we then need to look at the possibilities for external promotion. By showing external stakeholders the progress you have made and the renewed commitment to your staff's health, safety and wellbeing you will encourage new and repeat business. Not only can it positively impact sales, but encourage further investment by shareholders.
At the end of the day, as an investor, are you more likely to give your money to someone who shows little regard for human life and by extension opening the company and you up to further liabilities or will you invest in a firm which takes care of its colleagues and promotes wellbeing?
How are you going to get the word out into the world that you take your responsibilities for health and safety seriously?
- First of all, you should write some statements for your website, which will essentially show your policies and show off your safety culture, once again being as transparent as possible.
- Then, promote these statements on social media, not everyone will automatically check a page titled 'health and safety', especially consumers. But at the end of the day you need to be proud of progress which has been made.
- Finally, this is particularly important for larger organisations with a number of shareholders - an annual report should be compiled solely for health, safety, wellbeing and culture.