Safety culture is an organisations’ shared attitudes, values and beliefs about safety in the workplace—essentially, ‘the way this are done around here’. It influences safety performance and is also a significant factor in predicting the likelihood of safety incidents.
In any safety culture there are four overarching dimensions—environment, practices, person and leadership—and organisations need to invest in all four dimensions to effectively manage risk and create a strong safety culture.
The environment component refers to the physical aspects of safety such as equipment, tools, gear, engineering and housekeeping. It also includes things like physical barriers and controls that keep workers protected from predictable risks. Historically, the environmental component has received a lot of attention in traditional safety approaches.
Practices include policies and procedures, safety rules, the effectiveness of start of shift meetings, safety coaching and safety training. Like the environmental component of safety culture, practices have traditionally received a lot of attention, especially when it comes to policies, procedures and laws around how work should be conducted safely.
The person component of safety culture refers to workers’ skills, experience, attitudes, intelligence, motivation, behavioural choices and teamwork. Arguably the most critical, the strength of this area comes into play when individuals are faced with an unpredictable risk or situation that has no engineered designs or procedures to help them manage it.
Leadership impacts the overarching business culture more than any other single factor, and therefore is critical for driving strong safety performance. This component includes management support for safety, the level of consultation that occurs around safety and downwards safety communication.
It’s important to remember that there isn’t one single factor that determines safety in an organisation—it’s a combination of all four dimensions that lead to your safety culture. And depending on how these dimensions are functioning, they can be either helpful or hindering towards creating a strong, positive safety culture.
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