by Simon Bliss, Managing Director of Principal People
Safety culture is a company-wide safety management system. It’s a health and safety program that requires both individual and group effort that includes shared attitudes, understanding, values, and behaviour. Organisations who practise positive safety culture communicate based on mutual trust and shared perception with regards to safety.
What is behaviour-based safety concept?
H.W. Heinrich concluded that workers cause 9 out of 10 industrial accidents. He proposed that such a problem could be reduced by observing and changing their behaviour. However, this concept blames the employees and neglected other relevant factors.
Fortunately, most industry experts consider this as an out-dated concept for three reasons:
1. Finding someone to blame.
By directing the blame for the accident on the worker, the company ignores the external factors like safety programs, controls, and even communication. These are some of the areas that companies need to improve.
2. Incentives for achieving zero rate injuries.
Incentives can have a negative on your safety program. For example, rewarding employees to hit company quota on injury rate or days without accidents may encourage them not to report safety accidents.
You should carefully plan your incentive program to make sure that it doesn’t discourage them from reporting valid safety issues.
3. Encouraging anonymous reporting of safety issues.
Anonymous observation and reporting tend to incite conflict amongst employees. It also raises concerns that safety issues are being covered up. In a positive safety culture, workers can report problems freely. Also, the company should encourage them to report exemplary behaviour and suggestions for improving workplace safety.
So how can you make the work area safe?
● Empower your employees in safety planning.
Employees are likely to follow safety rules if they have a hand in the planning. The more they understand and take ownership of the safety program, the more likely they will take action.
● Equip employees with clear job instructions.
Consider providing employees with instructions that they can clearly understand. You also need to review and confirm if they understood their responsibilities.
● Periodically inspect machinery and tools.
As an employer, you need to check if the company’s machinery is working correctly. Also, you can have your EHS officer conduct periodic checks of your equipment.
● Understand how employees accomplished their jobs.
Understandably, employees will take shortcuts in their work; however, this can cause safety issues. You should also consider looking for employees who improved their job performance. If applicable, you can have it adopted by other workers.
● Remove any identified hazards.
Your EHS officer should conduct periodic inspection of the company workplace to isolate any potential dangers. It’s recommended to have the check at the beginning of the year. Also, consider reviewing your safety program. However, if your company doesn’t have an EHS officer, you can get the help of a health and safety recruiter to find one.
You can also encourage the safety culture by:
1. Sharing your safety vision and assigning clear responsibilities.
Everyone should understand the stated goal of the organisation’s safety culture. To enforce accountability, you’ll need to assign responsibility to each member.
2. Providing multiple options to your staff.
Employees with safety concern would typically report to their supervisors. However, they should have multiple options for reporting their apprehensions. This will ensure that managers are held accountable for their responses.
3. Educating employees on reporting injuries.
Your EHS officer should educate workers about the importance of reporting accidents, injuries, and even near misses using the company’s incident reporting system if you have one.
4. Setting up a credible investigating system.
When accidents and incidents occur in the workplace, an investigation will typically take place. The EHS officer must conduct a thorough and impartial enquiry. This will help uncover the source of the accident.
5. Earning your employees trust and making every success public.
There’s a way to encourage an employee to observe safety regulations and report safety concerns. One of them is to earn their trust. Also, consider making your efforts public to motivate and update employees about the current process.
Organisations keen to adopt a positive safety culture should avoid generally blaming the workers for industrial mishaps. The EHS officers should conduct an impartial investigation and consider external factors for the cause of accidents. Another way to improve the safety culture is to appoint a key person to promote it in every department. In most companies, the person responsible could be a safety manager or EHS officer.
Simon Bliss is the Managing Director of Principal People, a recruitment consultancy specialising in Health, Safety, and Environment. The company is successful in providing clients with candidates who are fit in a variety of positions including senior and leadership roles. He’s also the COO of the Juhler Group of Companies which operates in 40 locations across Europe and Asia.