Safety culture exists in people’s beliefs, attitudes, assumptions and perceptions. These often vary within different groups of people, which lead to subcultures forming. While subcultures are not a bad thing, they can be more difficult to detect and change if necessary.
In general, managers tend to be more positive about health and safety and the workforce tends to be more negative. The more closely aligned that management and the workforce are in their safety mindset, the more likely it is that you have a healthy safety culture.
Here are five behaviours that you can look for to determine if your safety culture is divided or united:
The flow of both formal and informal communication is uninhibited. Everyone speaks openly and honestly, and importantly, opinions are listened to and valued. The right people get the right information at the right time and everyone who needs to know, knows. Bad news is given and received with a learning attitude and good news is appreciated with gratitude.
Observation: are workers and managers familiar and congruent about safety?
Health and safety standards are maintained and protected by everyone in the organisation. There is no hierarchy when safety is addressed and the workers feel confident to hold the managers accountable for their safety as much as the other way around. There is genuine pride in creating the safest workplace possible.
Observation: do workers and managers look out for each other because they care?
When things don’t always go to plan and decisions have to be made quickly, the workforce is confident to find and fix their own safety issues as they arise. They know that safety is the management’s first priority and feel empowered to make decisions accordingly. There is a mechanism in place to communicate the decision to anyone who is affected by it.
Observation: do workers and managers trust each other enough to share control?
People feel valued for their contributions towards safety. This is reinforced through informal recognition from workers or managers, as well as through formal reward schemes or promotion opportunities. Safety is a condition of employment and everyone is encouraged to live the value of safety.
Observation: do workers and managers appreciate the efforts that are put into safety?
Everyone knows and exercises their personal responsibility for safety. They welcome the opportunity to be audited and are transparent about their safety practices. The organisation employs an external consultant to find faults within the health and safety systems and procedures because everyone knows that a fresh pair of eyes can identify risks and any solutions will result in a more robust safety culture.
Observation: do workers and managers view weak areas on a safety report as a gift?
The rule for a great safety culture is that everyone is consistent and persistent in their roles. Within your organisation, you may have some areas of exceptionally good practice and some areas of bad practice. Inconsistency kills culture.