One of my key roles within the Cardinus health and safety consultancy team is working on strategic interventions to improve the health and safety performance of the client’s organisation. I am involved in influencing and making an impact on health and safety compliance within organisations.
My approach is generally two-fold. How can I improve the health and safety management systems within the organisation and how can I influence compliance behaviour?
Initially, I need to find out about the safety culture by looking at attitudes to health and safety at all levels and establishing some benchmarks. This can be achieved by talking to key stakeholders within the organisation to gauge their perception of the quality of health and safety performance.
My next objective is to get a better measure of performance by carrying out an audit review of the health and safety management system. In organisations large and small, it is often difficult to know exactly how well you are managing health and safety and to what extent you are merely compliant or reflecting industry best practice.
A health and safety audit is an essential tool helping you understand what is going right, and what is not. It is a way of periodically measuring how effectively an organisation and its departments are complying with their health and safety duties. It also allows comparisons to be made between areas that are performing well regarding health and safety management and those that are not. This enables best practice to be spread throughout an organisation.
The audit review provides an opportunity to consider both the organisation’s strengths and areas for improvement. From this point it’s a good idea to establish a Prioritised Risk Register from which an agreed safety programme can be developed.
I enjoy working with key personnel to influence their compliance behaviour. Experience has taught me that providing staff with the opportunity to have an input into the control measures leads to a better understanding of risk and greater compliance towards safety management.
This buy-in from stakeholders is a key element in developing a positive safety culture within the organisation. Engaging closely with staff is vital to developing a close understanding of the organisation’s attitude to safety compliance and to the successful implementation of safety systems. It’s about moving people from a ‘bottom line’ compliance behaviour of, “I do this because the law says I have to”, to a more proactive approach. The benefits of a well-developed safety culture based on measuring performance must be clearly understood and celebrated.
A positive safety culture helps organisations to achieve their ultimate goal of achieving better safety performance. However, the process of understanding and improving a safety culture can be daunting. An organisation’s leadership will ask:
- How good is our safety culture?
- How can we improve it?
How can we measure it?
These questions can be difficult to answer because, just like any culture, a safety culture is built around many factors, including attitudes, accountability, leadership, and other ‘soft’ components that cannot be easily measured. However, it is also strongly defined by another, more measurable factor: finding and fixing problems.
By focusing on this key element, organisations can gain meaningful insight into the health of their safety culture. When you measure the performance, establish accountability, and take action on findings, you are demonstrating a clear commitment to providing a safe workplace. This in turn leads to positive employee attitudes toward safety and a healthier safety culture.
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