How Cultural Changes Can Keep Your Workforce Safe

October 30, 2016

Do you have a culture of safety within your business?

You could spend a great deal of time searching for the answer to the above question, because quantifying any type of culture is rather difficult. A safety culture, in particular, is tricky to measure. After all, how can one measure attitude, beliefs and values?

Cultures are powerful things, which is why it is vital to instill one that values safety in the workplace before something goes horribly wrong. By definition, ‘culture’ is an atmosphere created by collective beliefs and attitudes, and if those beliefs and attitudes disregard safety, accidents are almost inevitable.

Safety cultures in the workplace don’t develop naturally – they have to be nurtured and encouraged by leading from the top, opening up communication channels and installing EH&S systems that promote a safer way to work.

In this post, we’re going to list some of the key reasons cultural changes are able to keep workforces safe. If you a can say “yes, we see that within our organization” – great. If not, you’ve got some work to do.

Employees respond well to leadership commitment

Commitment (or lack thereof) to EH&S as a vital business strategy from those in senior positions always shows. The old adage of ‘lead by example’ absolutely applies here.

Employees will follow suit when a cultural change towards health and safety takes place above them. A great safety culture will be driven by the leaders’ commitment to safety through their actions.

There should only be one winner in the battle of productivity vs safety

If thrown into a boxing ring, which would win at your organization – productivity or safety? If it’s the former, a cultural change is vital.

If safety is only ever the victor on the rare occasion it’s the convenient and easy option, you have a culture that values production over the health of employees. That will never end well, no matter how high your output and sales figures.

For many businesses, this can be the hardest cultural change when it comes to EH&S, but it thankfully benefits from an incredibly simple premise: safety should always, without question, come first.

Opportunities for improvement will be more readily identified

If safety is always foremost in the minds of the workforce, opportunities to improve the EH&S landscape within the organization will be more readily identified.

A culture that values EH&S is one that is proactive in identifying risk and reporting it quickly, so that things can be put right before anything goes wrong further down the line.

An EH&S-centric culture is a fair culture

Equality within the workplace is vitally important, and one of the best ways to foster a culture that is fair for all is to put in place an EH&S strategy that takes every department and individual employee under its wing.

Reporting incidents becomes ‘the done thing’

In organizations where EH&S is an afterthought, employees often approach the business of reporting EH&S incidents with a degree of trepidation. Will they be ignored or – worse – reprimanded for coming forward? As a result, the easy route (i.e. not bothering to report at all) is usually taken.

When the culture of a business shifts so that it values health and safety above everything else, employees will feel far more comfortable reporting incidents or concerns to their superiors. Staff should feel encouraged to speak out about EH&S and be praised for doing so – there’s no healthier or more inclusive way to promote a safe workplace.

Conclusion

A culture of safety in the workplace can only prevail if employees are confident in the systems and processes used to manage EH&S. If senior staff lead from the top, the risk management strategy is made clear and the ability to report any concern as simple and encouraged as it should be, a culture will naturally develop that keeps the workforce safe.

 

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