31 Mar 2022 Do Your Employees Take Health & Safety Seriously? How to Create a Positive Safety Culture
What do your employees think about your Health & Safety procedures? Is achieving full staff engagement with H&S policies a business challenge?
What your employees think about your health and safety procedures and rationale matters. It matters because your employees’ behaviour is influenced by their engagement levels, and therefore the likelihood of workplace incidents.
Changing attitudes reduces risk
As a nation – as a world – we’ve become a lot more risk-aware, and risk-averse. COVID has played no small role in achieving this mindset shift, as people have become a lot more educated and understanding of how our behaviours can put our own health and the health of others on the line.
But how far have we evolved from the days of employees rolling their eyes and extolling that it’s “health and safety gone mad” when a health and safety executive so much as mentions a risk assessment?
Indeed, there are still many people where bravado and complacency can present a barrier to health and safety in the workplace. It can be a challenge to change attitudes and get these naysayers on board with health and safety training and policies. The question for employers is, how do you change these attitudes? And why is it important to try?
Creating a culture of safety means getting everyone on board
Your business’s safety culture is the combined total of the attitudes, behaviours and perceptions of everyone who works in your organisation. It was what influences how things actually work rather than how they should theoretically work, and are potentially more fundamental in terms of safety outcomes even than your organisation’s safety management system itself.
Your business can introduce controls to reduce risks – but while you can control equipment and environments, and provide instructions and directions, it’s much more difficult to control the human factors that impact risk. People bring their individual personalities, attitudes, biases and habits to work with them.
Individual perception of risk and vulnerability can present as bias and overconfidence. This means that when someone is sceptical of the need for procedures or policies because they don’t perceive themselves to be at risk, they may engage in careless habits.
Humans generally aren’t the best at judging probability or risk in the moment. This is because we are instilled with psychological coping mechanisms that result in us unconsciously underestimating risks to enable ourselves to take them in the first place. If we lived constantly in fear, we would not be able to function.
So, designing health and safety policies is one thing, informing and delivering education to staff is another, but securing engagement and creating a safety culture is a whole different challenge altogether. But, where attitudes present a barrier to safety, an employer must instigate change.
Here’s how to achieve health and safety engagement:
Lead by Example
In all areas of leadership and life, you must model the behaviours you want to see. Whatever example your leadership team sets is the one your workforce will be following. Ensure strict compliance with H&S policies amongst the leadership team. There are no exceptions – no quickly popping through a workshop without PPE – personal accountability at all times.
Ensure there is a health and safety champion amongst the senior management team and openly monitor H&S KPIs. Provide specific training for managers and supervisors who are responsible for ensuring the health and safety of their teams.
Give the correct training, by professionals who understand the human factors
Offering health and safety training is crucial but as we’ve already covered, you can give people information but can’t guarantee they engage with it. Health and safety training must take into account the human factors that impact safety culture and safety outcomes, and tackle the psychological aspects of safety.
Risk management must be proportionate. This means that there must be a balance between being able to get on with the job without too much interruption, or that risks must be eliminated at the expense of common sense. It also means that it’s important not to turn a blind eye to the cutting of necessary corners for the sake of convenience. Never prioritise deadlines or profits over safety, but ensure that progress is not needlessly impeded by procedure and policy.
Reward Positive Behaviour
The use of positive reinforcement is a powerful tool to ensure that adherence to the rules is continued and valued by employees. It can be as simple as an informal acknowledgement of an employee’s dedication to safety, or it can be a formal recognition programme for the people who champion your health and safety procedures.
Discipline those who undermine or actively ignore safety procedures
Part of ensuring personal accountability is having a clear policy in place surrounding health and safety as a discipline issue. Always discipline workers who are not adhering to health and safety procedures, or who are openly admonishing or undermining health and safety policies or staff members. A failure to discipline staff for health and safety transgressions can encourage a lack of personal accountability throughout the organisation.
Health and safety training is essential, but it must be delivered in a way that is relevant and engaging. We present all health and safety training with a human-centric approach that helps to shift mindsets and develop a sense of personal accountability and responsibility in all members of your organisation. Find out more about our approach and training options.