How to create a leading safety culture

culture_forklift

It is reasonable to say that Health and Safety has become a key focus for many businesses over the past 30 years. For some, it is the cornerstone of operations with robust visions such as ‘zero harm’, ‘work safe home safe’ and ‘make safety your priority’, with the aim of improving performance and keeping workers safe – and rightly so.

So, you might ask, what is the measuring stick for safety performance? Is it reduced injuries, or zero fatalities?

In 2000-2001 there were 133,115 reported serious injury claims, which had dropped by almost 20,000 to 113,965 some 14 years later. During similar time frames, workplace fatalities have dropped from 259 to 195.

This data is all important, and can be interpreted in one of two ways, depending on which bracket suits your thinking: ‘glass half full’ or ‘half empty’.

Our position? The stats should be viewed as being undeniably alarming. Any fatality is unacceptable, and irreversible. And all injuries are avoidable.

Businesses have adopted many and varied approaches to improving safety over the years, historically driven by legislative compliance requirements. In an attempt to demonstrate compliance, organisations have often focused on developing Safety Management Systems. However, what is more notable is the lack of emphasis and energy on strategies to address an organisation’s Safety Culture, including a focus on activities such as:

  • increased/improved consultation mechanisms and safety conversations;
  • the implementation of pragmatic approaches and mechanisms for keeping the workplace safe; and
  • promoting and valuing the importance of worker involvement in safety solutions.

Safety culture is the way safety is perceived, valued and prioritised in an organisation. It reflects the real commitment to safety at all levels in the business. It has also been described as “how an organisation behaves when no one is watching”.

Unfortunately, safety culture is not something you are given or can buy (wouldn’t that make life easy!). However, it is something an organisation acquires, builds upon and develops over time.

With regard to the statistics mentioned above, it’s vital to review these in the context of your own unique business setting. Ask yourself whether the safety culture of your workforce has an influence on: injury rates; productivity; worker wellbeing; morale; ‘sick days’ (cough cough); and of course (what no employer wants to experience) serious injuries. If the answer is ‘Yes’, do you actually attribute this to your safety culture?

For many, unlocking the secret to a successful safety culture is a ‘work in progress’. However, the question organisations should be asking themselves is: Do you have effective Safety Leaders in your organisation and do they demonstrate behaviour that:

  • challenges the status quo;
  • creates and supports a safety vision;
  • encourages others to commit to the vision;
  • motivates and inspires workers to overcome barriers;
  • provides a platform for role models;
  • promotes optimal worker wellbeing;
  • encourages innovation;
  • encourages regular and open communication; and
  • helps the organisation to develop by adapting to changing circumstances?

If this is not your experience, here is an opportunity to rethink how these leaders in your business can improve their approach. If you want to hear more about safety culture, register now for our interactive online event, Improving Safety Culture, webcast live on Thursday 22 March at 11.00am (AEDT).

Simply put, improving your safety culture works. So tune in to our webinar to find out how.

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Caroline Lange
Caroline is Manager - Safety & Workers Compensation Services for Ai Group in South Australia. She has over 25 years’ experience in Work Health Safety and Injury Management within the private and public sector in industries including: transport and logistics, manufacturing, agriculture, mining, local government, finance, food processing, foundries, aged care and not-for-profit organisations.
Caroline Lange

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