What is a positive safety culture?
Humans by nature are highly influenced by our environment and those around us. When entering a new workplace, we are likely to adapt to our surroundings rather than go against the flow, even if it means ignoring the company’s rules.
This is why creating a positive safety culture is crucial in establishing lasting behaviours in our staff. If the majority of our colleagues are behaving safely and following rules, the rest of the workforce are likely to follow suit.
Why is a positive safety culture important?
If you are responsible for staff in your workplace, you have a legal duty of care to ensure their safety and wellbeing. Yet implementing rules and procedures is not enough to meet legal requirements. You must also ensure that these rules are being followed. If your workforce becomes resistant or complacent, your job becomes much harder. The importance of a safety culture cannot be underestimated.
Creating a positive culture – where employees actively participate in health and safety – will help you to meet your duty of care and provide peace of mind. And the great thing about having a strong safety culture is it is self-sustaining. New employees are likely to adopt safe ways of working, and your existing employees will require less supervision from you long term.
A strong health and safety culture achieves more than just lower injury rates. If a workplace feels safe and secure, productivity and employee wellbeing are also going to be high. Employees have also proven to be more committed to company goals and work well together as a team in workplaces where a positive culture exists.
How can we improve the safety culture at work
Your leadership style is key in bringing about change in the workplace. While leadership styles differ depending on each individual’s skills and experiences, you may find that taking a transformational leadership approach could have a positive impact in your workplace.
Transformational leadership refers to the idea of transforming employees’ way of thinking through inspiration, support and leading by example. A transformational leader will involve the entire workforce and coach them towards a new way of thinking and behaving.
Some ways of adopting a transformational leadership style include;
- Coach instead of instruct
- Appeal to group interests rather than self-interest
- Praise rather than criticise
- Celebrate success rather than focus on failures
- Train, motivate and encourage
- Build trust and create a sense of community amongst colleagues
- Listen and encourage open communication
- Involve workers in health and safety discussions, risk assessments, reviews etc.
- Adopt open body language, a friendly tone and a confident manner
Examples of transformational leadership
You are on a construction site and spot an employee carrying out work on a ladder rested against weak, plastic guttering.
- Ignore it. They know that the ladder shouldn’t be resting on unsecured surfaces, if the ladder falls, it is their fault.
- Shout at the employee in front of the entire workforce and discipline them for their actions.
- Tell them that the ladder shouldn’t be placed there and leave them to it.
- Pull the employee aside to discuss their actions. Inform them of the risks and find out why they were working in that way. Did they simply forget or was something preventing them from working safely? For example, did they feel pressured to get the work done or were they unaware that what they were doing was wrong? Show them an alternative placement for the ladder and reassure them that their safety is a top priority.
You manage a retail store and hear that an employee at another store has been attacked by a customer.
- Brush it off as a rare incident which won’t happen in your workplace.
- Place posters in the staff room on handling difficult customers and email around a list of rules and operating procedures.
- Bring your employees together to discuss the incident. Explain what has happened, why you don’t want it to happen to them and what they could be doing to prevent a similar incident in your store. Create an open discussion to find out whether there are similar issues in your workplace. For example, do they ever feel unsafe in the store? If so in what situations/at what times of the day? Do they know how to signal for help if they feel in danger? Could they benefit from additional training? Ask them if they have any concerns or questions or need any more support from you.
Health and safety culture for remote and lone workers
Transforming the workplace safety culture takes time and will come more naturally if you frequently work alongside your employees.
However, if your employees work remotely, alone or across several sites, changing the culture could prove to be a longer process, as there is less influence from colleagues and less chance to learn from example.
In order to change behaviour, you will need ensure that other supervisors or managers are committed to creating a positive safety culture. Receiving encouragement from all staff members will not only be more effective, but it will also communicate that the entire business is dedicated to the wellbeing of their employees.
It is important to note that lone workers face a range of hazards and risks on a daily basis, that can differ from those based in a fixed or office environment. If you have more than five employees, you are legally required to carry out a lone working risk assessment. This will help you identify what needs to be done to control health and safety risks for your lone workers.
Following on from the risk assessment, you will need to produce a safety policy for your lone workers. This is a guide that will set out your companies’ rules on working alone and help your employees to understand the risks they may face.
While interaction with your employees may be virtual, each of the principles above should still be put into practice. Coaching, training and encouragement can be provided over the phone, and meetings can be arranged virtually with other colleagues to initiate discussion and talk through concerns.
StaySafe lone worker apps and solutions
One way to help remote and lone workers engage with health and safety procedures, is to implement a lone worker app such as StaySafe. StaySafe enables you to protect and monitor your employees whilst they work, travel or meet with clients alone or in remote locations throughout the United Kingdom.
The intuitive safety app monitors the location of lone workers in real-time and allows them to check in safely once they have finished a lone working or travel session. If one of your employees fails to check in safely during a lone working session, has an accident or raises an alert, you can locate them and get help straight away.
If employees are encouraged to use the app daily, health and safety will be at the forefront of their minds whenever they begin work. Lone working apps, such as StaySafe, enable you to fulfil your ‘duty of care’ to your employees and enhance your reputation as a responsible employer. Implementing health and safety procedures will also communicate a positive message to staff that the organisation is looking out for their safety.
Want more information? Find out how you can use a lone worker app to protect your business.