Health and safety is a legal necessity in every workplace, but it shouldn’t be seen as an onerous, burdensome and annoying obligation. Encouraging a positive safety culture has many benefits for employers and employees alike. Not only will it reduce the chance of an organisation being fined for non-compliance and lead to lower insurance premiums, but it also means a healthier, happier workforce, lower absenteeism, reduced staff turnover and improved productivity.
Engagement in health and safety across the organisation is vital. If all employees at every level understand how to stay safe, everyone will benefit.
Analysis by Gallup of 82,000 business units and 1.8 million employees in 230 organisations across 49 industries and 73 countries found that businesses in the top 25% for employee engagement had 70% fewer safety incidents compared with the bottom 25%.
All employees are required to undergo health and safety training. Our Health and Safety Awareness Course helps ensure employees can work safely, identify workplace hazards and know how to report incidents and potential safety issues.
How to create a positive health and safety culture
There are various steps an employer can take to encourage a positive health and safety culture at work.
1. Employee communication and engagement
Open communication is vital for creating a positive safety culture.
All employees should be involved in health and safety planning, and discussing it should be part of everyday work conversations. This will encourage employees to take ownership of their own health and safety and not think that “it’s someone’s else’s job”.
When creating new policies and procedures or updating existing ones, it’s a good idea to consult widely across the workforce, including those who work full-time, part-time and contractors. Employees could also be pro-actively involved in areas such as workshops and risk assessments.
Running internal surveys will encourage employees to give feedback and raise concerns about new safety hazards. If employees provide feedback, respond positively and explain why a suggested action is or is not going to be taken.
Health and safety information should be available in multiple and accessible formats, including braille and audio.
If communication remains open and transparent, employees should feel able to raise a concern or complaint about a workplace hazard or incident. If concerns are raised, investigate them thoroughly and share the outcome.
2. Proactive training
By law, employers must provide adequate health and safety training. Trained employees will be equipped with the skills and knowledge to do their job safely and feel confident that their employer wants to keep them safe.
Take a proactive approach to training. As a minimum, deliver what you are required to do under the law and regularly consult your employees to identify any needs for new, top-up or refresher training.
Training needn’t be costly or time-consuming. E-learning courses, such as those offered by Praxis42, allow employees to complete courses at their own pace from wherever they are.
Training is important for all employees, but managers and supervisors play a key role in the health and safety of employees. Training such as the Praxis42 IOSH Managing Safety Course will equip them with an understanding of their responsibilities, how to execute them and how to protect the health and safety of the employees they manage.
3. Health and safety committees
Creating health and safety committees can contribute to a positive health and safety culture in the workplace.
Employers are legally obliged to set up a health and safety committee within three months of it being requested by two or more union-appointed health and safety representatives. There is no such requirement if a business has health and safety representatives elected by the workforce. However, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) still recommends setting up a health and safety committee.
A health and safety committee helps to encourage open and transparent dialogue between management and employees. The committee can discuss issues including workplace inspections by enforcing authorities, risk assessments and training. They can also discuss accidents with the focus on stopping them from happening again rather than assigning blame.
The HSE has detailed advice on setting up health and safety committees.
4. Reward good behaviour
A system for recognising and rewarding good health and safety behaviour will improve employee satisfaction and promote a positive culture. It could involve a prize, sending a personal email or face-to-face praise when employees perform well.
Employees can also be rewarded for successfully completing training. Praxis42’s SHINE learning management system has a gamification feature that allows you to create badges as rewards for users when they complete a course or combination of courses. This encourages employees to strive for excellence.
5. Leadership and management
Managers and supervisors should lead by example to help create a positive health and safety culture and always follow policies and procedures. Ignore them, and employees will do the same.
Managers should be accessible and regularly discuss health and safety with their employees. They should demonstrate commitment by their actions, such as stopping work activity from resolving issues if an incident occurs. This will communicate to employees that their safety takes priority over commercial business interests.
6. Health and safety
All businesses are legally required to have a health and safety policy, and it is important for all employees to understand it.
The policy outlines how your organisation complies with the law and how your health and safety policies and procedures prevent employees and others from suffering harm in the workplace.
A health and safety policy helps promote safe working practices across the organisation by outlining who in the business does what, when and how.
7. Healthy and safe working environment
Employers should ensure they provide a healthy and safe working environment.
Equipment should be fit for the job and the people carrying out the task. Consider areas such as the location of buttons and switches, ensuring that they can’t be activated by mistake and cause an accident.
Workstation equipment such as chairs, desks and computers should be designed and positioned so that the employees using them are comfortable. Poorly designed equipment encourages awkward positions, which leads to repetitive strain injuries and increased stress. High levels of stress mean accidents are more likely.
Equipment and machinery should also be properly maintained and regularly inspected as covered by rules such as the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER).
The HSE has a detailed guide to workplace ergonomics, and read our guide to working safely with display screen equipment.
8. No blame culture
If an accident occurs, an employee should be treated with compassion rather than being reprimanded for doing something wrong.
Work with employees to calmly discuss what happened and why. Examine the facts in an impartial way and consider what precautions should be taken to stop the accident from happening again. If necessary, provide refresher training to all the employees involved, so they feel equipped to do their job safely.
Make sure your employees are aware of workplace health and safety issues with our Health and Safety Awareness training. It’s IOSH Approved and CPD Certified and gives employees the information they need to work safely.