A workplace culture of safety can be defined as “the shared beliefs, attitudes, norms and work practices of employees and management.” It not only helps to protect employees from hazards, but also promotes efficiency, reduces cost and improves morale and productivity.
However, fostering a positive workplace culture doesn’t occur overnight. Often, it doesn’t occur at all - even after sustained efforts from management. How do you know if your organisation is unwittingly sliding toward a toxic culture of safety? The following signs indicate dysfunction in an organisation’s workplace safety norms.
Substandard Incident Reporting
What happens when one of your employees suffers a work-related accident or injury? Are you all too familiar with the following responses?
Some incidents are reported but others are ignored
Investigations occur only after serious accidents
Human factors are ignored in incident analysis
Legal requirements are the main concern.
If your organisation has fallen into the habit of responding in any of these ways, it’s time to take a step back and reevaluate the way you report accidents and incidents.
Misplaced Blame for Incidents
The belief that ‘accidents are just part of the job’ leads to the notion that victims hold the blame for workplace-related illnesses and injuries. This attitude can easily become disruptive when employees feel that management blames those directly involved with the accident, rather than acknowledging that change needs to occur.
If these attitudes have been held for a long time, it can be difficult to change the culture of the organisation, but there are positive steps you can take right away to make safety an important shared value in your business.
Poor Communication Regarding Safety
When employees hear little about health and safety, they often assume it’s not important to management.
Organisations can improve their communication regarding safety by;
Making it a regular topic at trainings and meetings
Using positive reinforcement by rewarding employees who adhere to risk, health and safety policies.
No Feedback After Accidents
If damage control is the main focus after an accident, you’ve got a problem. This tells employees that the company’s reputation and profitability are more important than the health and safety of individuals.
The feedback loop after every incident should be completed and fully documented in order to signal that you take each incident seriously. This is true of minor incidents as well as major ones. You’ll find that correcting this problem will have immediate positive effects on your organisation’s culture of safety.
If you’re seeing these warning signs in your organisation, take confidence in the fact that where management leads, workers will follow.
Begin by changing your mindset. When it comes to workplace health and safety, many people look backward instead of forward. They focus on mistakes and who is to blame for these. This develops a punishment-based culture, and punishment generally leads to fear and mistrust. Instead of looking backward, look forward. Forward-looking accountability aims at prevention instead of punishment. When an accident happens, instead of searching for someone to blame, search for ways this kind of accident can be prevented in the future.
Prevention helps you to see investigations in a whole new light. You’ll look at them as information-gathering missions that will help you to improve policies, improve training, and better inform your employees of the potential hazards around them.
Health and Safety Software
Thankfully, even a toxic culture of safety can be reversed with the help of health and safety software like Vault. The end-to-end, cloud-based solution is a centralised location for your risk, health and safety management, simplifying your processes and driving productivity through transparency.