Health and Safety culture – why should we care?

23 June, 2021
health and safety culture why should we care bridge illustration with construction work and equipment - pride, one team, safety, commercial strength, productivity

First of all, let’s be clear just what we mean by a health and safety culture. It encompasses the values, attitudes and behaviours that determine an organisation’s commitment to the health, safety and wellbeing of its staff. A published list of safety protocols, underpinned by training and compliance, is a critical part of any safety programme. However, this does not automatically give your organisation anything resembling a safety culture. It is the word ‘culture’ that really matters here. Health and safety culture goes far beyond simply understanding a list of rules and following them because you’ve been told to. The crucial component in transforming protocols into culture is employee buy-in.

Who cares?

You may be asking, ‘Why does employee buy-in matter? As long as everyone follows the rules, isn’t that enough?’ Well, as a bare minimum, maybe it is. However, that would be to miss the point of the ‘culture’ aspect. A culture is ‘the way we do things here’. It consists of the shared beliefs, acquired behaviours, norms and customs common to members of a group (in this case, your organisation). A poor safety culture can lead to a common belief that it’s ok to cut corners, putting people, products and profits at risk.To create a strong shared safety culture, everyone – at every level – needs to feel part of it. But this is not just about creating a warm and fuzzy feeling. There are significant benefits both to the organisation and your employees when everyone is on board. It goes far deeper than a simple reduction in accidents.

A few facts and figures

Every year, in the UK alone:

  • 1.6 million people are suffering from a work-related illness
  • 111 workers are killed at work
  • 693,000 people sustain an injury at work
  • 65,000 injuries are reported to RIDDOR
  • 39 million working days are lost due to work-related illness or injury
  • An estimated £16.2 billion is lost – more than 50% of this borne by individuals

Benefits of worker involvement in a health and safety culture

When staff feel valued and involved in decision making, they can play a major role in a safe and high-performing workplace. Empowering your workforce, giving them the skills they need, and getting them involved in the decision making process, shows that you take their health, safety and wellbeing seriously. Your employees are often the best people to understand the risks involved in their part of the job. They also benefit by learning about other parts of the job and their inherent risks. Talking, listening and working together mean that you can:

  • identify joint solutions to problems
  • create a greater awareness of workplace risks
  • involve everyone in better control of workplace risks
  • improve not just safety but also efficiency, quality and productivity
  • make people feel that their opinions are valued
  • engender a strong belief in your health and safety principles
  • develop a culture where everyone looks out for everyone else
  • reduce accidents and ill health
  • reduce related costs to your business and to your employees

This in turn leads to:

  • lower absenteeism due to reduced work-related illness
  • lower wage bills – no doubled-up costs of sick pay and overtime to fill the gaps
  • reduced repairs of equipment due to accidents or poor handling
  • reduced re-working and waste disposal
  • reduced risk of HSE fines
  • reduced insurance claims
  • reduced insurance premiums
  • a happier and more cohesive workforce
  • belief that this is a good company to work for
  • lower staff turnover
  • lower recruitment and training costs
  • more satisfied clients and stakeholders
  • improved productivity, quality and profitability

A health and safety culture is good for business

As you can see, having a strong safety culture promotes so much more than just safety. It also increases worker confidence, retention and productivity. Morale is higher in organisations with fewer injuries, and it is viewed as a better place to work. Informed employees are more likely to make safe decisions in an emergency. They help to keep your business stable, and they take pride in being part of the culture. In short, a strong health and safety culture is good for your people and your bottom line.

Related articles

Behavioural safety and why it is good for business

How to build a behavioural safety culture

Why behavioural safety training is vital in industry

Visible Felt Leadership and why it matters

The Safety Game®

Here at The Big Picture People, we are experts in behavioural health and safety training, helping to align your ongoing strategy with your company culture. Our bespoke Learning Maps and Interactive Board Games are aimed at adventurous, innovative Health and Safety managers who recognise that their staff are a vital part of any safety programme. This proven mechanic is designed to get employees at all levels talking to each other. They explore concepts and ideas to see how safety applies to them. The games prompt discussion and resolution. Everyone learns from each other – about different roles, risks and challenges within the organisation. The process is upbeat, fun and competitive, breaking down barriers and allowing everyone to make suggestions on improving safety and changing behaviours. A tailored Safety Game encourages people to engage, think, understand and apply the knowledge they’ve acquired.

Intrigued? Call us for a free 30-minute consultation to find out how a bespoke Safety Game could help you build or strengthen your behavioural safety culture.

Or why not join us for our upcoming free webinar Transforming Health & Safety Training.

Learn more

Read about our culture and values solution here:

Culture and values

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