Promoting a strong and resilient health and safety (H&S) culture isn’t rocket science but it does take time, effort and resources.
The overall culture in a company (regardless of size) has a big effect on the health and safety performance of employees. However, culture is a notoriously tricky thing to pin down and it entirely depends on the people who work in an organisation.
“Culture forms the context within which people judge the appropriateness of their behaviour” (HSE) In other words, culture is ‘how we do things around here’.
A health and safety culture is a subset of the overall company culture and is the result of the group’s values, attitudes, perceptions, competencies and behavioural patterns (HSE).
These together determine the commitment to (and the style of) H&S management.
Ensure that senior management is committed
Senior management needs to be on board with health and safety. Obvious and wholehearted commitment from the management team boosts team motivation and helps ensure employees that their health and wellbeing are always priority number one.
Senior, middle and junior managers all need to lead by example when it comes to health and safety.
Good managers can often be found on the ‘shop floor’ demonstrating their commitment and chatting through health and safety concerns with employees.
All concern and commitment needs to be (and appear) genuine or employees will likely assume that that the interest comes from commercial intent or corporate box-checking.
Practise transparent communication across levels of seniority
In a strong culture, health and safety should be a part of everyday conversations and everyday concerns.
If managers listen to employees on a regular basis and enquire about health and safety then they’re building up a well of trust. That way, when an accident or a near miss occurs, you can have an open dialogue about what went wrong and how it can be fixed or prevented in the future.
If employees do not feel there is sufficient support, you will probably never about the misses or mistakes that were made and will only see the results when it’s too late
Sprinkle health and safety into everyday life
The more times you hear something the more likely you are to remember it. Toolbox talks are a super clever way to build training and repetition into everyday life.
A toolbox talk is a short informal health and safety discussion on a very specific health and safety matter.
Sending entire groups of staff away for health and safety training is extortionate and time consuming. What if we told you there was another way? Toolbox talks are inexpensive, not tremendously time consuming and make sure that health and safety is at the forefront of everyone’s mind, all the time. What more could you want?.
Instead of sending whole teams off on training days, why not send the minimum of staff away and have them report back small bite sized talks that you can cover in your weekly catch ups?
We’ve all done the odd training course and we’d be lying if we said they were all equally thrilling. Because a toolbox talk is so short and specific, there’s no time for bullshit and not long enough for attendees to snooze!
Take every concern seriously
This step goes hand-in-hand with genuine management concern. To build trust that spans from senior management to junior employees to floor staff to HR, employees need to know that every concern they raise is taken seriously.
Never dismiss concerns as trivial and always deal with them via official processes.
Tailor training and PPE to the individual
Traditionally, personal protective equipment (PPE) was a one size fits all kind of deal. And that’s still the case some places.
Now, if you’re a size medium or large male and have fairly average dimensions, then that’s no biggie. But if you’re a petite guy or a girl, then the ‘standard’ size probably won’t fit you.
If employees spend a significant amount of hours in their PPE, you need to make sure they are comfortable.
Form a PPE committee that will discuss requirements, want and needs. Oh, and make sure the people in committee are a well represented sample of the workplace!
With regards to training, every single person doesn’t need the same courses nor induction programmes. Plan a personal induction programme for each individual role to make sure that the new employees are taught exactly what they need to know.
Encourage employee participation
If you want to build a resilient culture then you need every employee to take ownership of their work. By including employees in things such as workshops and risk assessments you are leveraging the unique knowledge that each individual has of their own work and role.
Safety is a joint exercise. If senior management isn’t fully onboard, it wont work. And likewise with floor staff.
Deliver a damn good induction programme
When someone new starts in a role, there’s a unique window of opportunity to teach them the right ways before they start to adopt annoying habits or before they’re taught someone’s personal interpretation of the rules.
Make sure that every new employee start their job with a solid, tailored induction. This way they’ll know what’s right and wrong in your company.
It’s way easier to set strong foundations for healthy habits, than try and change them a year in when you realise someone’s doing something the wrong way.
Building a strong health and safety culture can be hard and it ultimately depends on the staff that work in an organisation. However, we hope these steps will set you on your way. If you need any help setting up toolbox talks or are sending your staff away for training, please do not hesitate to get in touch and we’d be happy to give you a custom quote on what we can do for you.