Best practice tips for creating a safety culture in the workplace

Creating a safer work environment requires two key components. Organisations need to implement effective health and safety policies. However, for workers to follow these policies, it is also important to promote a positive health and safety culture.

What is a Safety Culture?

Workplace culture is the values, attitudes and beliefs of everyone within the organisation. Safety culture is a form of workplace culture that places emphasis and importance on the health and safety of workers. It encourages employees to prioritise safety over production goals.

Within an organisation, the culture will dictate that the overall health and safety of a workplace is the primary goal, instead of meeting a tight production schedule or sales quota. This culture is not directly attached to the safety and health policies of the company. Rather, it is the workers’ attitudes toward those policies.

What Does a Safety Culture in the Workplace Mean?

The internal culture of an organisation directly impacts a worker’s personal attitudes towards work health and safety. Safety procedures are only effective when workers follow them. Promoting a safety culture in the workplace means encouraging workers to adhere to safety protocols and procedures.

Without positive safety attitudes, employees may overlook potential risks and hazards. If you want workers to follow specific safety steps, every level of the organisation needs to promote greater safety awareness. It requires an organisation-wide effort to make safety a priority; from the board of directors down to the frontline workforce.

Why is a Positive Safety Culture Important?

Government legislation, such as the Work Health and Safety (WHS) Act, has helped promote and achieve better safety outcomes in the workplace. The number of workers’ compensation claims have continued to decrease since the WHS laws were passed. However, there is always room for improvement.

Many businesses have adopted safety procedures based on varying WHS codes of practice. Unfortunately, workers do not automatically follow company policy. Without a positive safety culture that places a high value on worker safety, there is an increased risk of hazards and accidents to an individual or workforce.

How Can You Create a Positive Health and Safety Culture?

Safety culture starts at the top. Workers will not prioritise safety if their supervisors do not lead by example. Supervisors are less likely to encourage safe work practices if they perceive senior management does not commit to safety.

Creating a safety culture in the workplace requires all levels of an organisation to be actively involved. There are several best practices for encouraging workers, supervisors and officers to care more about health and safety. The following steps can help encourage change:

  • Make safety the top concern;
  • Provide necessary training;
  • Elect health and safety representatives;
  • Establish a work health and safety committee; and
  • Implement a safety management system.

To promote better health and safety culture in the workplace, management needs to stress the importance of safety to supervisors and individuals that are in control of a workplace. Safety needs to become the main concern. Workers should never need to sacrifice safety to increase productivity.

Training is also often a necessary part of creating a safety culture and changing employee attitudes toward safety. Ensuring that workers know how to identify hazards directly affects their ability to follow safety procedures. Besides the general workforce, supervisors and officers should also complete the necessary training.

With the right WHS training courses, workers can remain aware of best safety practices for dealing with different foreseen and unforeseen dangers, such as working in confined spaces. In-person and online training courses are available. In fact, some courses are needed for compliance of a company and its workers under the WHS laws.

Health and safety representatives (HSR’s) provide an additional resource for encouraging better attitudes toward safety. These representatives are elected by workers to look out for their health and safety within a workfront. They can also help reinforce the information covered during safety training.

While HSR’s look out for groups of workers, a work health and safety committee (HSC) looks out for the welfare of the entire organisation. These committees include HSRs, supervisors and senior management. The HSC provides a forum for discussing safety issues, including the issue of workplace culture.

The final component for promoting a safer work environment is implementing a Work Health and Safety Management System (WHSMS). An WHSMS is a combination of efforts and practices related to worker health and safety and outlines the policies,required level of training, monitoring, supervision and reporting to further build on a positive safety culture.

The safety culture and overall standard of safety in the workplace should be a concern for every business. The safety of workers can directly impact the bottom line of an organisation. With these elements in place, it becomes easier to encourage everyone to make safety the primary mission.

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