Creating a Strong Safety Culture

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a strong safety culture has the single greatest impact on accident reduction of any workplace practice. This is why creating a safety culture should be prioritized by the managers and supervisors at your organization.

Safety Culture

A safety culture consists of shared beliefs, mind-sets, and practices at an organization that form an atmosphere of attitudes that shape behavior in a positive way. An organization’s safety culture is a direct result of the following factors:

  • Employee and management norms, beliefs, and assumptions
  • Management and employee attitudes
  • Values, stories, and myths
  • Policies and procedures
  • Supervisor responsibilities, priorities, and accountability
  • Production and bottom line pressure versus quality issues
  • Actions taken (or lack thereof) to correct unsafe behaviors
  • Employee motivation and training
  • Employee buy-in and involvement during the process

An organization’s safety culture is a direct reflection of the company’s overarching culture and the people who work in it. As a result, most employees will form their perceptions of safety and its importance based on the attitude their employer projects.

The following are four primary types of safety cultures commonly held by companies in the United States:

  • Forced Culture: A company with a forced safety culture uses threats and bribes as a way to motivate employees to keep safety at the forefront. These organizations’ health and safety officers are viewed as police-like figures because they must constantly enforce codes and rules. In addition, employees feel that these individuals’ sole purpose is to catch them doing unsafe acts and to punish them. In these cultures, the workers’ fear of punishment is so overwhelming that their performance suffers, creating an unenjoyable work environment.
  • Protective Culture: An organization with a protective safety culture imposes a substantial amount of rules and regulations onto their workers. If an employee violates one of the rules, this management may see a need to create more rules. Ultimately, this creates confusion because there are too many regulating factors in place.
  • Involved Culture: An organization with an involved safety culture sees to it that employees receive an abundance of safety training, with the exception of top management officials. Though morale may often be higher at organizations with this culture because safety officers are not constantly policing employees, they also run the risk of being less safe. Management should become part of the safety culture in order to make it flourish.
  • Integral Culture: A company with an integral safety culture also provides an abundance of safety training for employees, but they are attended by individuals at all levels of leadership. Safety officers in these organizations have budgets and authority, and enforce rules when appropriate.

The Integral Culture model provides a strong, successful safety culture where everyone feels responsible for safety and pursues it on a daily basis. They go beyond the “call of duty” to identify, intervene, and correct unsafe conditions and behaviors. In addition, co-workers look out for each other and point out unsafe behaviors. As a result, companies with strong safety cultures typically experience fewer at-risk behaviors and consequently experience higher productivity and lower accident rates, turn-over rates, and absenteeism.

Promoting a Safety Culture at Your Organization

Use these strategies to develop a culture of safety:

  • Develop a site safety plan including key goals, policies, measures, and strategic and operational plans.
  • Implement a “buddy system” in which experienced individuals are matched with newer workers. The experienced workers can serve as role models for newer workers, demonstrating safe work procedures.
  • Encourage all workers to look out for others. Doing so will develop safety responsibilities for every level of the organization.
  • Get management and supervisors on the same page by establishing a shared vision of safety and health goals and objectives versus production.
  • Implement a process that holds management accountable for visibly setting the proper example, being involved, and leading positive change for safety and health.
  • Management should be available during employee orientation and introduction sessions.
  • The company should demonstrate a commitment to worker health and safety by developing safe work practices and prescribing the mentality that unsafe actions will not be tolerated.
  • Make health and safety part of regular workplace communications.
  • Encourage workers to promptly report health and safety concerns they encounter. Also provide multiple paths for employees to bring concerns, suggestions, and problems forward.
  • Implement a system for tracking and ensuring quick hazard corrections.
  • Make sure that the organization has a system for reporting injuries, near-miss accidents, and the need for first aid.
  • Host emergency response training and promote safety training sessions.
  • Properly maintain safety equipment and make sure that it is used correctly by employees.
  • Update incentives and disciplinary actions to include safety and health concerns.
  • Creating an effective safety culture is an essential part of your loss control efforts. Contact Nine Point Strategies today at 650.421.4300 for more assistance with all your employee safety needs.

This Risk Insights is not intended to be exhaustive, nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as legal advice. Readers should contact legal counsel or an insurance professional for appropriate advice.

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