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Work Health and Safety Blog

There's so much happening in the world of health & safety. Changes in legislation and requirements, changes in best practice, changes in ... you name it. Here's my take on making it simple. Simply Genius WHS - stop guessing... manage with confidence.

How to create a work health and safety culture

Maralyn Kastel - Friday, August 30, 2013

Creating a set of  health and safety policies and procedures to comply with legislative requirements is relatively simple.  However, creating a true safety culture requires a much more integrated effort. It’s an effort that has benefits far beyond the initial “tick-a-box” compliance stage. Whilst lower accident and injury rates are a measurable factor, it is the longer term changes to workers’ behaviour, involvement and ownership of work health & safety processes where the big benefits really occur.

So how do you go about creating a safety culture?
Successfully creating a safety culture involves using a top-down AND bottom-up approach. This means a systems and processes approach to manage health and safety throughout your organisation:

Management support and direction
Business owners, or senior managers and policy makers have to demonstrate a clear health & safety vision for the organisation.  This will normally include well-defined and measurable safety objectives which are determined through consultation with workers at all levels.

Managers and supervisors can then monitor progress and regularly communicate their support of the safety objectives. It is vitally important that all managers and supervisors set the example with their actions. In other words, they must practise what they preach.

Worker accountability and participation
I know it sounds clichéd but it is a proven fact that workers who are empowered to take reasonable steps to manage their own safety and the safety of their fellow workers are more effective in reducing accident rate than where highlighting safety concerns is not a priority. Make sure workers are comfortable discussing health and safety issues and include accountability for health & safety in all workers job descriptions. At the other end of the scale, workers must know the consequences of failing to comply with the established and communicated guidelines.

Regular ongoing health & safety training
Make sure health and safety training is regular, routine and, when appropriate, mandatory. Specific training not only includes high risk jobs, but also those areas that often overlooked such as fatigue management, bullying and harassment.  It must also be easily understood by all workers. Regular health & safety meetings or toolbox talks provide a means of keeping the information fresh and are an excellent way to remind workers of safe working practices. Evaluate all internal and external training programmes to make sure they remain effective over time.  Just because it's always been done that way, doesn't mean that there isn't room for improvement.

A goal of continuous improvement
Evaluate all aspects of the health and safety programme regularly and make changes when necessary. An important part of this evaluation is the use of accident and incident investigations. Investigate all accidents and near misses to determine the root cause of the accident. Once the root cause is identified, take steps to prevent any further incidents of that nature. 

An active health and safety committee
In larger organisations a Health & Safety committee serves as a link between workers and management. Health & Safety committees provide a mechanism to set the health and safety agenda. Including the workers who are expected to comply with safety objectives will not only increase the likelihood of worker buy-in, it will help to make sure any suggested changes are realistic and achievable.

Comprehensive Workers’ Compensation claims management
This includes having a written claims management policy and procedure and establishing a return-to-work programme. Return-to-work programmes are invaluable for both reducing costs and improving worker morale. Workers who are working in a modified capacity while they heal will remain engaged with work environment and are likely to return to full time work faster than those who languish without a specific return to work programme. Communicate regularly with workers who unable to return to work during this phase to make sure all medical appointments are taking place as scheduled and any concerns are addressed in a timely manner. 

Celebrating success
Recognising and celebrating the success of achieving health & safety objectives is important. This can be as simple as thanking a worker for taking the time to raise a safety issue or having a “safe worker of the month”.  Celebrate on your company’s health and safety noticeboard, in your newsletter or through other performance management rewards that you have in place.

The key motive behind rewards and recognition is to influence further effort going forward, not just to make people feel good by being recognised for past effort.

Clearly with so many aspects of such an important and integral part of your business, having an ally to assist you in your efforts is a true asset. Many accidents often boil down to a lack of attention to detail. As such, it is the management of those details that can make the biggest difference.

This is where we can help. From Toolbox Talks to customisable, industry-specific WHS management tools, you’ll have a strong ally in your goals of creating a true long-term safety culture. Contact us to see how we can help you with creating an effective and integrated safety culture for your organisation.

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