With the start of National Safe Work Month today, now is probably a good time to review your organisation’s safety culture, which is an essential part of your safety performance.
Safety culture represents a workplace’s collective attitude and approach to health and safety.
The patterns of behaviour that are promoted through safety culture determine the level of proficiency and commitment to your health and safety program.
Depending on the safety maturity of your organisation, your business could be at different stages of a safety culture. The stages are:
Not taking any account of safety in its operations.
Having a system of administrative and engineering controls and being largely compliant with legislation, but otherwise only responding to incidents.
Having reactive systems and more sophisticated technological and systematic controls designed to remove identified hazards.
Having calculative systems incorporating higher levels of compliance by workers with those safety systems, through behavioural and cognitive influences such as attitudes, perceptions, knowledge, skills, social norms and other socio-psychological factors.
Having proactive systems and positive cultural and sub-cultural influences that improve the adoption of safety standards. For example, a culture within the organisation that although the customer is always right, safety comes first.
How to conduct a gap analysis of safety culture in your organisation
To test your organisation’s level of safety culture maturity, you can undertake a gap analysis with the following steps:
Step 1: Identify where the business wants to go with safety. Does the business aspire to the best level of safety possible?
Step 2: Undertake a survey of your workers to assess their view of the safety culture at the organisation. An example survey can be found here.
Step 3: Identify any leadership or behavioural gaps from the survey, and compare it with where the business wants to go with safety.
Step 4: Identify how the gaps can be addressed, for example, through:
- changes in values and attitudes;
- the development of competencies; and
- the creation of new patterns of behaviour.
Step 5: Consider how changes can be implemented, communicated, understood and accepted by all workers. Set out a plan for change.
How to improve your safety culture
Although there is no one-size-fits-all approach to developing a safety culture, an examination of the high-risk construction industry in Queensland led to a practical formulation of key steps that organisations should consider taking to improve their safety culture which include:
- Communicating company values;
- Demonstrating leadership;
- Clarifying required and expected behaviours;
- Personalising safety outcomes;
- Developing positive safety attitudes;
- Engaging and owning safety responsibilities and accountabilities;
- Increasing hazard/risk awareness and preventive behaviours;
- Improving understanding and effective implementation of safety management systems; and
- Monitoring, reviewing and reflecting on personal effectiveness.
Further information detailing exactly how you can improve your safety culture can be found in chapter S8 Safety Culture in the Health & Safety Handbook.