What are the benefits of a positive safety culture?

The safety culture - a recap

In our last post we discussed as to what makes up both a positive and a negative safety culture, so just as a quick recap, the safety culture is the way in which your organisation takes ownership of their responsibilities to employees, customers and stakeholders. Depending on the way in which this is done determines either a positive or negative safety culture.

If you'd like to read more on what constitutes a positive or a negative safety culture, you can do so here

In this post we're going to discuss how a proactive approach to developing a positive safety culture can affect your business.

Evidence suggests that organisations which have developed a positive safety culture and promote a proactive approach to health and safety are more likely to succeed and we're going to explain why here. A strong health and safety ethic has a direct impact on costs through the reduction of accident payouts, staff turnover and staff training. An organisation also gains an insight into the way in which its people perceive health and safety both on an individual, organisational and regulatory level.

Through developing a positive safety culture you, as a leader, gain an insight into both the strengths and weaknesses held by your organisation. You may find strength behind strict health and safety policies enforcing behaviour within your hierarchy, however a weakness is that such strict health and safety policies may stifle change.

A positive safety culture has benefits across the organisation. It has been said often, but good health and safety really does mean good business.

More on costs, the quantitative benefits...

Your safety culture decides whether or not the impact on costs brought about by health and safety be good, bad or worse for your organisation. Here are ten things affected, both directly and indirectly, by your safety culture:

  1. Wages

  2. Staff turnover

  3. Training costs

  4. Lower absenteeism

  5. Potential accidents

  6. Insurance claims and renewals

  7. Potential fines brought about by the HSE

  8. The expense of Personal Protective Equipment

  9. Reduced cost of potential damage repairs through avoidable accidents.

  10. By shouting about your safety culture your reputation will improve, increasing sales

For starters - wages. Your safety culture will have a direct effect on wages. Through a negative safety culture, where staff are more likely to be hurt, you are more likely to spend money covering sickness rather than marketing or sales. This leads us straight to number two in which staff who don't believe that their safety is a priority are more likely to leave to work for a competitor. This in turn creates further spending in recruitment and training.

Some of the biggest costs to an organisation, within the subject of health and safety, occur when things go wrong. Number six on our list of expenses - insurance claims and renewal premiums which follow an accident. Once a claim is made, you know as well as I do that premiums go up and can cost a business thousands of pounds over the course of several years. Following these claims, if such an accident should trigger an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive, and should such an investigation side against you, the potential fines, negative publicity and cost to you personally could be devastating.

The correct health and safety processes, procedures and training could reduce the need for PPE and the repeat costs of purchase. Now, we're not trying to understate the value of PPE however as per the HSE guidance on the subject, personal protective equipment should only be used as a last resort, removing the risk should always be top priority.

The penultimate expense on our list - the cost of repairs. As well as the affect on your staff, the safety culture also directly affects your workspace. Through the lack of health and safety procedures, accidents which do occur could cause not only harm to people but to machinery, property and other assets, in which not only the down time caused will lose money, but so will the cost of repair.

Last but certainly not least - Your reputation. While developing your safety culture, be it through multiple small changes or a few big changes all at once, you should be shouting about it! Make it loud, show every stakeholder, be it staff, customers or suppliers that you care about your staff. By doing this you are simultaneously improving your reputation and encouraging new and repeat purchases.

Less costs, more qualitative.

The benefits (or disadvantages) of your safety culture have impacts across your business, not just on costs but a host of other factors. We've put together six factors which are affected by the safety culture:

  1. Allows your organisation an insight into how health and safety is perceived by stakeholders.

  2. Once you have a general idea how health and safety is perceived by your people you can drill down to further knowledge on how safety is perceived on an individual, organisational and regulatory level.

  3. Your safety culture allows you to identify any strengths and weaknesses you may have, from there you can also evaluate opportunities and threats (SWOT analysis).

  4. Safety culture, positive or negative has a direct impact on the safety of employees, contractors and the general public.

  5. A positive safety culture results in a happier workforce knowing that their employers treat safety as a top priority.

  6. A happier workforce will in turn provide improved productivity, quality and profitability.

At the beginning of your safety culture evaluation you should be sending out a questionnaire to your staff, this has multiple benefits and crosses a few things off our list. First of all, it will provide an overall view of the perception of health and safety within your organisation. An in-depth questionnaire will allow you to see whether your workforce believes safety practices and procedures to be effective, or just another piece of red tape preventing effective work.

Once your initial evaluation is complete, you should be left with what is best described as a SWOT analysis. With the internal strengths and weaknesses identified, any external opportunities and threats will become apparent, and a focal area for developing a positive safety culture.

Health and safety has a direct impact on every stakeholder, be it employees, volunteers, external contractors, general public and you. Staff will be more likely to work harder, be more productive and provide a higher quality customer experience if they are armed with the knowledge that their safety and wellbeing is a priority to their bosses. If you invest in them, they'll invest with you. To summarise this point, investing in your staff's safety and wellbeing could result in higher profits elsewhere.

"621,000 injuries occurred at work according to the Labour Force Survey" - HSE 2015/16

To sum up...

In conclusion to this post, your safety culture will have both quantitative and qualitative benefits, including improved reputation through investment in safety and wellbeing. This in turn will create further sales and belief in the quality of purchase, encouraging your customers to buy with you by showing who they're investing in.

As well as the potential investment from customers, the costing benefits can also be substantial, from a decrease in wages through reduced absenteeism to a reduction in insurance premiums through effective health and safety management.

The SWOT analysis we have generated by evaluating the current culture of safety within your organisation will provide the next steps as to what needs to be done to create an effective, positive safety culture. Once your analysis has been concluded you are able to begin a proactive approach to safety management. Proactive versus reactive.

Finally, to return to one of our original points, evidence indicates that successful organisations have developed a positive safety culture which promotes health and safety.

Speak soon,