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Safety culture kick-start

Napthens - March 9th 2021

2021 is underway, and there’s no denying that it’s not started how everyone might have dreamed it would. You might well be thinking, here it is, another doom and gloom COVID-19 article from Napthens H&S but let me stop you there!

With some positive news on the pandemic front and BREXIT out of the headlines – now is the time to Kickstart your Safety Culture for the benefit of your organisation and everyone connected with it!

Now, it wouldn’t make much sense to kick-start anything unless you know what it is, Safety Culture is no exception. There’s also not much point kick-starting something unless you have an idea about the costs and benefits associated with doing so. What is 'Safety Culture' then and why on earth is now the time to think about it?

All businesses have, in some way or another, been affected by COVID-19 (my apologies the C word) – this might just be closed offices, or changed layouts, complete shutdowns and entirely new ways of doing business. If you’re facing reopening or a return to something more like normality then that first day back is the best opportunity to press reset within the workplace.

That’s not just a reset in terms of health and safety but any areas in which you feel your business can improve. You have the chance to say that was the old way but now it’s a brave new world and we are going to be better. But what is a positive health and safety culture what does it look and feel like?

To be honest, there isn’t one single correct answer to the above question - there are various theories and people who are much smarter than me have written and talked about it a lot, but for me it is simply looking out for each other, it is someone putting their hand on your shoulder before you do something silly and saying "let me show you a better way."

It sounds basic but, that is all it is. If everyone in your company today looked out for their colleagues and kept each other safe, then you’re already there.

If on the other hand people look to take shortcuts, don’t wear PPE, act unprofessionally then accidents can and will happen. All it takes is one person to change the culture of the company for the worse, but it takes the whole company to decide to be better.

When people talk about having a positive health and safety culture, I believe there are key elements to achieve this:

  • Leadership
  • Accountability
  • Buy In
  • And ultimately Picking and Winning the small battles.


What is leadership in terms of Health and Safety Culture?

It is leading from the front!

If you are the MD, CEO, Company owner, divine leader, whatever your job title and you don’t believe in the importance of Health and Safety, then why should anyone else?

If you don’t wear PPE why should I, if you don’t read risk assessments why should I?

This is your company - it is your baby. It is the reason you get up in the morning, it is the reason you work longer hours than everyone else, it is your legacy. So why don’t you want it to be the best, why don’t you want people to want to work for you?

Ask yourself this, when did you last talk about Health and Safety in a positive manner?

My point being, What you say is important! If you go to site and moan about Health and Safety, then why should anyone take it seriously?

You need to always remember that, you set the standard. This doesn’t just mean appointing health and safety consultants or employing a health and safety manager, advisor, specialist etc.

You need to talk to them, ask them where you are at in terms of health and safety and allow them to be honest, include them in your manager/ board meetings. If you lead with health and safety, then your direct reports will lead with health and safety and this will channel all the way down through your company.

You also need to take this one step further and challenge people. If you see something wrong then do something about it. Remember you set the standard, if you turn a blind eye then it becomes accepted behaviour.

To have a positive Health and Safety culture then everyone has to be equal, everyone has to follow the rules, everyone has to read the policies and procedures, everyone has to look after each other, remember it takes one person to bring a company down but it takes everyone to bring the standard up. It is about everyone being accountable and not shying away from making the big calls.

  • Set up monthly safety meetings include your key personnel, but also invite people from the shop floor to attend, they might just surprise you.
  • Create a “you said we did board” this will help to show your employees that you are driving for change
  • Remember if you can’t do something straight away, set a time frame for when you are going to rectify the issue as this will help to manage expectations.
  • Pick and win the small battles, you set the standard if you walk past something or see something and do nothing then it will be acceptable behaviour.

Ultimately, it is up to you as the leader; you decide if your company is great or if it is “ok”. You decide if it is big brash broad strokes or if it is magnolia. I have given you some ideas and tools which I have used in the past to gain success, now go be the leader you know you can be!