Promoting a Positive Health and Safety Culture

Health & Safety 2008


Promoting a positive health and safety culture

The culture of an organisation makes the greatest contribution to its health and safety performance. Unfortunately culture is not an easy concept to understand, measure or manage. A good health and safety management system can go some way to setting the scene for developing a good culture, but it goes much deeper than that.


What is a health and safety culture?

According to HSG65 "The safety culture of an organisation is the product of individual and group values, attitudes, perceptions, competencies and patterns of behaviour that determine the commitment to, and the style and proficiency of, an organisation's health and safety management.” Also (quoting from the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Nuclear Installations) "Organisations with a positive safety culture are characterised by communications founded on mutual trust, by shared perceptions of the importance of safety and by confidence in the efficacy of preventative measures." Safety culture is not a difficult idea, but it is usually described in terms of concepts such as ‘trust’, ‘values’ and ‘attitudes’. It can be difficult to describe what these mean, but you can judge whether a company has a good safety culture from what its employees actually do rather than what they say. 4.1.1 Signs that suggest a poor culture

The symptoms of a poor health and safety cultural include: • • • Widespread, routine procedural violations; Failures of compliance with health and safety systems; Management decisions that put production or cost before safety.

These conditions can be difficult to detect because a poor culture not only contributes to their occurrence, it also means that people may be inclined to hide or cover-up violations and unsafe practices. Reference – ‘Inspectors human factors toolkit - Common topic 4: Safety culture’ available free at 4.1.2 Signs that suggest...