Culture is difficult to quantify yet remains a crucial aspect of workplace safety. Most organisations understand the need for specific safety rules and procedures, but company culture – the beliefs, values, and attitudes of the workforce is often undervalued. That shouldn’t be the case.
Creating a safety culture has the most significant impact on reducing incidents and injuries. A positive safety culture will go beyond health benefits, too. Your company’s safety culture, whether good or bad, will impact your workers in several ways:
In a positive safety culture, workers will prioritise safety in everything they do instinctively, going above and beyond industry standards in everyday tasks. In contrast, in a poor safety culture, safety is an afterthought or another requirement in a list of forgettable steps.
Here’s how both cultures impact workers.
The most obvious impact safety culture has on your employees is their safety itself. When these regulations and procedures take a backseat to considerations like productivity and convenience, injuries are more likely. Various tools and strategies can help prevent safety incidents, but none are as effective as a safety-first company culture.
No matter how much information workers have, avoiding risks requires conscious and decisive action. If employees only address these hazards when they arise, they’ll keep appearing.
Positive safety culture is proactive, not reactive. When workers understand what they can do to prevent accidents and how it benefits them, they’ll take a more active role in safety. They’ll adjust their behaviour and make suggestions to eliminate hazards instead of reacting to them, reducing the likelihood of an accident.
Your company’s safety culture will also impact your employees’ productivity. A poor, purely reactive safety culture makes disruptions more likely, either through accidents or from near-misses. These disruptions interrupt workflows, making it more challenging to maintain the same level of productivity throughout the workday.
Since accidents are more likely in a poor safety culture, you may encounter injured employees needing time off for sick leave. With workers out on leave, other staff must stretch themselves further to meet demand or you’ll have to hire temporary workers. Temporary hires will take time to reach the productivity levels of experienced employees, so productivity will falter either way.
A strong safety culture, by contrast, will reduce incidents, ensuring a smoother workflow. Smoother operations will translate into increased productivity. When safety becomes second nature to employees, not something they need to stop and think about, their individual productivity will improve too.
Finally, your workplace safety culture can affect employee turnover rates. Workers want to feel safe at work, especially in high-risk industries like manufacturing, and that’s precisely what a safety culture changes. A safety-first company culture will make employees feel more comfortable and a reactive one will make them feel less safe, regardless of actual injury rates.
If employees feel unsafe, they won’t likely stay for long. Cases where workers leave a position because of an unsafe environment have increased by almost 1,000% since 2010. Employees today have an increasingly low tolerance for a lack of a strong safety culture.
Given these trends, it’s safe to assume that better safety culture can help prevent worker turnover. Even if your actual injury rates are low, if workers don’t feel safe, you may have trouble retaining them.
A positive safety culture is invaluable
It’s difficult to overstate the importance of a positive safety culture. Safety must be a part of everything your company does, and it must be a primary consideration in every instance. A genuine value!
A safety-first workplace culture will do more than just prevent accidents. It will improve workers’ productivity and reduce employee turnover rates, too. If you can foster such a culture, you can improve your organisation on virtually all fronts.
Neil Lancaster is a trainer and coach for SOG Ltd whose ‘Deal with It’ Safety Culture programme specialises in safety leadership, employee engagement and human factor workshops.
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