Recently, it has become quite trendy to refer to any behavioural system within an organisation as its “culture” – referring to the way in which things are done in the organisation. Workplace culture has become very well known, and similarly it would be wise to establish a subculture in the workplace – Safety Culture referring to the safety policies, programmes and most importantly behaviour that encapsulates the health and safety programme in the workplace. A positive workplace Safety Culture is a vital part of the effective practice of Health & Safety in the normal course of operations.

To establish a Safety Culture in the workplace, one would need to examine the current culture and attitude towards safety and the compliance with safety protocols in the workplace. It would not be uncommon to find that a certain complacency has crept in, but such a complacency could be disastrous leading to accidents, injuries, illnesses and even the loss of a life. It is therefore critical to counter this complacency with a positive workplace Safety Culture in the best interest of the entire organisation.

The following steps can help a business create a positive workplace Safety Culture:

1. Communicate

Communication is key in the success of any strategy, and is absolutely crucial in ensuring all members of the organisation are on the same page when it comes to the health and safety programme. A great way to build a positive Safety Culture is by holding regular safety talks where workers are invited to speak on safety matters in an environment where they can know that they are heard. Also, make sure that safety policies are easily accessible to all workers, in a language in which they are comfortable, electronically and on paper that communicates the workplace’s policies, best practices and expectations.

2. Training

Providing training to workers demonstrates the company’s commitment to their health and safety. Employees who feel empowered through training will more readily embrace safety culture because they are aware of the hazards present in the workplace and the effects that they can have on maintaining workplace safety.

3. Lead by Example

Safety is about more than just verbal communication and training. It is about the behavioural adaptation required to effectively promote Safety Culture in the workplace. Workers model their onsite behaviour after the behaviour of their leaders. If leaders lead by example the safety behaviour they wish to establish in the workplace – committing to the policies and procedures of the company – workers will emulate this behaviour and buy-in to the workplace safety programme.

4. Positive Accountability

Accountability is an essential part of any business aspect and especially crucial to the health and safety programme. However, accountability usually comes with a set of repercussions and punishments, and this will not nurture a positive Safety Culture among workers. Rather, a paradigm shift in how accountability is applied is needed to establish a contrast between negative and positive accountability. Negative accountability may be necessary after an investigation into an incident discovers blame is applicable, but positive accountability must be a forward-looking acknowledgement of the lessons that can be learned from the mistakes that lead to the incident. Identifying changes that need to be made and incorporating these lessons into Safety talks and training, focusses the attention on building a safe workplace and preventing recurrences of the same incident and fosters a positive workplace Safety Culture.

5. Good relationships

Good relationships are important in for safety. Positive Safety Cultures are characterised by good relationships across all levels that are open to honest conversations about safety concerns and suggestions. Workers must trust that when they raise issues to management, that management will respond in a rational, effective manner and that they, the workers, will not be victimised. A good relationship includes mutual trust and respect as the foundation to a partnership in safety.