Why a Positive Health and Safety Culture Makes Good Business Sense
7 February 2023 - Evotix
If someone told you that a robust health and safety culture would not only transform your business but would positively impact your bottom line, would you continue to ignore it? Would you continue to use outdated manual processes and approach it as a checkbox exercise, as so many businesses do today? The answer is most likely “no.”
More than just numbers
Yet, the sad reality is that such a culture is still often largely lacking in many businesses today. With many simply counting on the absence of accidents and incidents as an indication of a positive health and safety culture.
Of course, there is so much more to it. To set an organization up for success, safety professionals need to create a more holistic approach to safety management, championing good communication, instilling solid technical safety disciplines, digitalizing the approach and implementing a safer working environment all round.
The rewards of implementing a more robust health and safety culture for businesses are so impactful it would be remiss to ignore them. Not only does a strong safety culture impact the bottom line, but it also leads to better reputation, happy customers, happier employees, efficient operations and, of course, higher financial performance. Add to that the fact that workplace accidents happen every day across the US with a reported 3 million workers in North America suffering an injury at work every year, health and safety should be at the top of every business’s agenda.
However, it’s a culture that needs to be nurtured. There needs to be a set of shared attitudes and beliefs at all levels of the company. A strong health and safety culture connects everyone in the business around a common goal to measurably reduce near misses and incidents. It goes beyond just following safety procedures and rules.
Yet, it’s clear that many organizations still struggle to get it right - often placing safety as a low-priority task – begging the question: how can simple processes and practices impact the way organizations think and behave when it comes to safe operations and exercising a healthier health and safety approach?
Improved incident management
Poorly executed safety practices are actively hurting businesses’ operations and conspiring to ensure below-par health and safety cultures. For example, many companies continue to use spreadsheets, paper forms or even emails to manage their health and safety actions. Often these spreadsheets are outdated and/or handed down from previous managers because they were the best option available at the time – and almost 90% of spreadsheets contain errors.
When it comes to incident management, many businesses still lack the reporting and insights from their incidents to truly understand what’s happening within their organizations.
These methods also raise questions around visibility, regulation and timeliness: how do others in the business know what is going on? How is it being communicated? How are issues being regulated? Are cases being treated with the right level of severity? And how can the management of incidents be held to any kind of timeline?
These ineffective practices can cause issues further down the line and are not the best use of employees’ time. For example, if spreadsheets are left unchecked, an issue could snowball into a much bigger problem which has the potential to greatly impact the business. These practices need to be tackled, and the approach needs to be transformed so that businesses can gain value from their Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) data to implement change and make improvements to safety operations
Companies need to be proactive
Our Head of Enablement, Julian Taylor, recently discussed how a large truck manufacturer who conducted safety audits every six months, bundled this information into action emails. By the time the next audit was due only a couple, if any, of these actions had been implemented from the last one. Not only did this have implications on them being compliant, but it also perpetuated a negative safety culture that put health and safety at the bottom of the priority list.
To create a more positive culture, organizations should want to proactively improve and be preventative. Until the culture within businesses that surrounds it has been tackled, effective change cannot be made to help businesses get ahead of the game.
Building a safety culture starts at the top
We understand that safety can’t be a business’s number one priority; the reality is that their top priority is making money. However, with the high rate of workplace accidents, it’s hard to believe safety isn’t engrained into the fabric of the company. What the statistics don’t show is that these workplace accidents not only impact employees’ careers, but they also affect their families and futures. The perceptions around the importance and value of safety needs to change.
That’s why we believe that safety should be discussed at a leadership or board level. Safety should not be side-lined in favor of other budgetary needs. The need for health and safety training, exercise and solutions shouldn’t come at the expense of other important factors.
Health and safety is often seen as bureaucratic and merely a checkbox exercise but we need to move away from this to trigger a more proactive approach to safety. We should champion a culture where not only business leaders but individuals themselves are personally invested in their safety and the safety of others. Not only following policy but doing so willingly and with the mindset of looking out for ways to increase site safety and reduce risk and the number of safety incidents that occur. Because the reality is that your people are your most important investment. And keeping them at work, means keeping your business moving.
Organizations must also steer clear of blame culture. ‘Blame and shame’ doesn’t tend to motivate anyone to report more hazards and leaders need to understand this. If leaders change the reaction from punishment to a learning opportunity, employees will be more engaged.
A healthier future
To create a better culture around safety, businesses have to actively want to improve and be preventative when it comes to the relevant safety measures. Positive safety culture leads to better reputation, high financial performance, happy customers, happy employees and efficient operations. It’s a win-win situation for all.
For more on the topic, check out our eBook on getting employees engaged to learn how to kick-start your safety culture and have employees actively engaging with safety.
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