Data from the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration indicates that a strong safety culture is effective in reducing workplace incidents.

What is this, and what does it mean for the safety and security of employees?

Safety culture explained

OSHA describes a safety culture as one that houses shared beliefs, attitudes and practices, stating, “Culture is the atmosphere created by those beliefs, attitudes, etc., which shape our behavior.” The factors involved in creating this culture are unique to every company, but may include:

  •         Geographical location
  •         The understanding of external threats
  •         Sensitivity of information
  •         Company policies and procedures
  •         Employee expertise and training relative to company goals and intended outcomes

Full participation

For a safety culture to work properly, everyone in the organization must do his or her share in maintaining a safe environment. Historically, safety cultures have failed to grow because top managers and executives have not become involved. They must understand that the battle is safety and health versus production and profitability. Upper management personnel can relate better if they look at a safety culture in terms of dollars and cents; that is, how effective such a culture is at saving money for the company.

Keeping the premises safe

A company may already have a policy in place that outlines a safety culture in some form, but periodic reevaluation is essential. For example, burglaries occur at businesses at least as often as they do at residences, a fact that is making companies more aware of the need for stronger workplace security.

Developing a plan

In line with OSHA thinking, business consultants advise having a comprehensive written plan of action that addresses every kind of safety issue, from workplace violence to a natural disaster. Legal counsel should review the plan, and employees should go through quarterly drills to ensure that everyone knows where to go and what to do in the event of an emergency. Having this kind of plan in place is the foundation for a strong safety culture.