A safety culture is a set of shared attitudes, beliefs and practices demonstrated by all levels within an organization.
A positive safety culture connects everyone in an organization to the common goal of reducing or eliminating workplace accidents and related injuries.
A true safety culture is one where everyone feels responsible and accountable for making the work environment safe. In a 1943 paper titled, “A Theory of Human Needs”, American psychologist Abraham Maslow believed that human decision-making is supported by a hierarchy of psychological needs. Maslow’s theory of motivation states that five categories of human needs dictate an individual’s behavior.
Safety is one of those five categories. I believe this theory remains accurate today, and that a healthy and safe work environment impacts employees’ behaviors and decision-making. In a strong safety culture, employees at all levels of the organization buy into what must and should be done to keep a work environment safe and commits to the necessary steps to make that happen.
Common attributes of a workplace with a thriving safety culture include:
- Leadership commitment
- Engagement of all levels of the organization
- Transparency of safety record
- Ongoing health and safety education
- Active engagement in health and safety initiatives
- Employee recognition for positive safety behavior and outcomes
- Define safety responsibilities - Do this for each level within your organization. This should include values, policies and goals.
- Share your safety vision - Create a safety vision statement that communicates the safety culture and desired outcomes to all levels of the organization.
- Enforce accountability - Create expectations and a process that holds everyone throughout the organization accountable for being supportive and involved, especially managers and supervisors.
- Make safety part of the performance evaluation for all employees.
- Reporting options - Provide various options for employees to report safety concerns or issues to management’s attention.
- Investigation and reporting - Educate all levels of management and employees on the importance of investigating and reporting all accidents, near-misses, and injuries. This will help determine the root cause of near-misses and accidents and the preventive actions to avoid re-occurrence. There should be a ZERO-tolerance policy for management who do not take action when safety concerns are reported.
- Recognize, reward and celebrate - Commit to on-going efforts to recognize, reward and celebrate individual and organizational health and safety.
- Walk the talk - Safety in the workplace is everyone’s job. Creating a successful safety culture that protects your most valuable assets, your employees, is a win-win for everyone.