Safety Culture: A Magnified View Following any Emergency
You may think that your organization has a strong safety culture, but oftentimes you can’t tell for sure until you have to respond to an emergency situation, or undergo an audit that directs scrutiny toward your safety policies.
No organization, no matter how large or small, is exempt from having up-to-date workplace safety policies and procedures. Policies and procedures, however, only go so far. To have a truly effective and successful safety program, your organization needs to have health and safety built into its workplace culture.
What is safety culture?
Think of safety culture as a pyramid with four levels:
- Leadership strategies
Safety values, at the bottom of the pyramid, are the foundation of your organization’s safety culture. These are the beliefs and priorities around safety that are embedded in your workplace’s day-to-day functions. Safety values may be reflected in your company’s mission statement, employee code of conduct, and internal policies, as well as in the ways that your employees communicate with one another, and the ways that management communicates with employees.
Safety leadership strategies are the methods used by organization leaders and team members to uphold those values and ensure that work is being carried out with safety in mind at all times.
Positive attitudes around safety should be nurtured in a company’s workplace culture and environment. Here the onus is on all personnel and stakeholders to respect and adhere to health and safety best practices on a daily basis. While an emergency situation can often highlight the importance of proper safety attitudes, too often organizations continue believing that safety is exclusively the responsibility of the designated safety manager – or viewing safety as a cost centre to be accounted for, rather than an intrinsic part of how you do business.
After an emergency passes, or if an emergency has not occurred, organizations without strong attitudes toward safety may fail to provide regular training refreshers. Small organizations may mistakenly believe that they are exempt from workplace health and safety regulations.
It is important to note that workplace health and safety regulations and guidances apply to all workplaces – whether you have 2 employees or 50,000.
All of these factors together – values, leadership strategies, and attitudes toward safety – inform your safety performance in an emergency situation. Strong values and leadership strategies foster positive attitudes, which can in turn make organizations more likely to focus on safety training and emergency preparedness.
What makes a successful and positive safety culture?
There are five key elements to creating a successful and positive safety culture within your workplace:
- Shared values
- Leadership involvement
- Continuous learning
- Constant support
The very foundation of every successful safety culture is a set of shared values at every level. Every worker and leader in an organization needs to be working under a common framework of health and safety policy.
Leadership involvement in safety culture ensures that values are upheld in business decisions.
The importance of communication
Another big part of successful safety leadership strategy is effective communication with workers. Key safety culture elements such as continuous learning, accountability, and constant support can all be developed with clear, two-directional communication between employees and leadership. Employees need to feel like they can report a safety issue without fear of retaliation or punitive measures, and leaders need to have an effective framework for communicating training requirements, potential hazards, or changes to the working environment among many other factors.
We live in an environment where information is readily available through news and social media. Employees also want this kind of information from their employer. Building positive modes of communication around safety into your workplace culture confirms to employees that:
- Senior managers walk the talk that they preach and expect
- Senior managers mirror the values they expect from the organizations staff
- Financial, human resources, and training support is present to support the safety culture the company communicates and expects
When employees recognize a mis-match in expectation and action or senior management, they will often seek employment elsewhere – and high rates of employee turnover can lead to safety issues when there are few truly experienced workers in the organization.
An organization has a duty to maintain a safe and healthy workplace for all its workers. This is true in regular, day-to-day operations, as well as when a specific safety issue arises such as an earthquake, a workplace hazard, or a pandemic. Having a positive workplace safety culture from the get-go can save you a great deal of work in remediation following a workplace safety event.
Need help developing your organization’s safety policies? Have a question about workplace health and safety regulations as they apply to your organization? At Fluent Motion, we are experts in organizational health and safety culture – contact us today.