Safety culture – What is it and why is it important?
Safety culture is really the pivotal aspect of successful health and safety management. In a workplace with a positive safety culture, people are encouraged to talk openly about safety issues, and never ignore something that they feel may be unsafe. People should feel comfortable that they are working as part of a team in an open, honest and transparent work environment. And that their concerns are heard and taken seriously.
Any workplace, regardless of whether it’s a mine site or a retail shop, should have an open attitude to talking about safety issues. A risk is a lot more likely to be identified by the people who take that risk on a daily basis than a health and safety manager doing a walk-through or an inspection. Nobody wants to get hurt, get sick or die, so everyone will have ideas about how to manage risks better. The people in a workplace should be seen as the biggest resource for safety guidance and risk reduction ideas. That way, risks will be more accurately identified and the solutions are probably going to be more suitable for the people that actually work with them.
Modern H&S laws require that top management engage with their staff about health and safety and that everyone participates in health and safety planning activities. This can be done in structured ways like safety meetings, hazard reporting, risk assessments and those sorts of things, but really, the easiest and most effective method is to encourage free conversation about safety. Top management need to lead by example and make sure that everyone knows that safety is an integral part of the work that they do. That means that time and resources are made available for safety and health issues.
Embedding a great safety culture may take time, and effort, but it’s likely to have positive effects right across your whole business. Your staff will feel cared for and appreciated, which will have immediate benefits for everyone.