This post will be the first of 2 that will aim to change how we think about 2 particular subjects in terms of values rather than a legal requirement. This post will look at Health & Safety and how organisations can foster a Company Culture of safety to really make a big impact.
If when you think of Health & Safety (H&S), you think of horrifically repetitive and mandatory lectures which you are required to attend so that the organisation can tick a few boxes and avoid legal action, I wouldn’t blame you. Unfortunately this depressing description is commonplace for a rather fundamental aspect of an organisation that can shape how its employees see themselves, the organisation and its culture. H&S is much more than just “lift with your legs and not with your back” or “this is how NOT to saw your arm off…” It is heavily linked to culture. The sooner organisations facilitate awareness of this and move away from legal requirements, to something each individual, from Executive board members to interns, believes in, supports and actively promotes, the better results in terms of bottom lines, organisational citizenship and reputation.
According to an article on EHS Today, some of the biggest trends this year are creating a culture of safety, promoting general health and well-being and ensuring that this is being driven form the top-down.
How do organisations, then, foster a “safe culture”? Is it as simple as telling employees to be on the lookout for unsafe conduct or conditions? Is it as elaborate as spending millions on equipment and resources? For many this is the extent to which they will go.
In the UK, SME’s spend approximately £2 ($3.2) million annually on ensuring that H&S guidelines are being adhered to. This is a combination of courses, materials, equipment, signs etc. Nonetheless, staggering statistics show that things regularly go wrong. For example:
– £13.4 ($21.5) billion lost through workplace injury and ill health
– 27 million working days lost
– 111,164 RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations) cases
– 212,000 absences reported over 3 days
– 173 fatalities in the workplace
Why is it that these measures aren’t working? If equipment is put into place to stop a dangerous incident occurring, why are these ignored/missed/forgotten? There are two factors that can explain this: Personality and Culture.
By exploring culture, an organisation can target specific aspects of the overall environment that are counterproductive to the cause. Bearing in mind the EHS article, it may be the case that employees feel that upper management are leaving safety on the wayside whilst focussing too much on the bottom line. By conducting a companywide climate survey, an organisation can gain feedback on how the employees really perceive safety in the organisation. Based on these results, Organisational Development plans can be put into place to increase the culture of safety.
By exploring the personalities of employees, be this at selection or afterwards in development, one can start to explore what may be helping or hindering their behaviours. Depending on how conscientious they are will affect how much they focus on detail. Depending on how confident they are will affect the risks they may take or how they perceive their own safe behaviours. An objective assessment of an individual’s safety related behaviours coupled with a high quality coaching programme can significantly decrease risk of poor safety related behaviours.
About the Author
Emdad Khan is a Graduate Consultant for 3 Minute Mile, based in West London in the UK. After graduating from Goldsmiths, University of London with a Masters in Occupational Psychology and accredited in Hogan Assessments, Emdad began working for 3 Minute Mile. He quickly began to increase the exposure of the company by engaging in its website, the company Twitter and LinkedIn pages, as well as creating the 3 Minute Muse and the 3 Minute Magazine. His passion lies in millennial integration in the workplace – from selection, to on-boarding, to development, to succession.