Health and Safety Transformation

“Now here is the safety forecast!”

By July 26, 2016 Health and Safety Culture

Every evening television providers use fabulous graphics to tell us about the weather we’ve just had, their expectations for the next 24 hours, and forecasts for the following five days.  A fleet of meteorologists around the world study and predict storms, wind, sunshine and temperatures, and these are faithfully presented to an eager audience. The accuracy of weather predictions are frequently linked to the language used. For example “A 60% chance of rain” provides pretty good betting odds, and is a discussion catalyst for the rest of the day.

So why isn’t more effort made to predict safety? It seems to me that our collective ‘mental models’ still see accidents and fatalities at work as unpredictable, and unfortunate events that suddenly just loom up over the horizon.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Traditionally safety is recorded as past events such as LTIFR, TRIFR or some other type of historical injury data which is supposed (hoped) to be an indicator of H&S effectiveness, despite the debate about what is included in the data, and potential incentives to fudge it.  In crude terms this is a bit like saying “Our definition of ‘sunny’ is the correct one, and because it was sunny yesterday it is likely to be so tomorrow” This approach would put a lot of meteorologists and weather presenters out of business, but because it’s the norm for health and safety, forecasting accidents and fatalities is a science yet to be made mainstream.

The lack of any widespread and sophisticated H&S forecasting is indicative of historical workplace attitudes when able workers were dispensable because they could be quickly replaced by the next job seeker, at little cost. Fortunately, many countries have moved on, but businesses in many others are still entrenched in a profit before people attitude. (A survey in 2103 identified over 70 countries with at least 10 – 25 times the Fatal Injury Rate of the UK).

In an effort to compensate for this lack of H&S forecasting, management has proceeded down a pathway signposted with: ‘If we stop workers doing dumb or irresponsible acts we’ll have zero harm (or near enough). And the way to achieve this is to make employees comply with our comprehensive policies and systems’. This pathway is a dead-end. Even when they don’t want to, human beings will still make mistakes, make poor decisions, and do dumb stuff, so it would be useful to be able to forecast if those human errors are likely to be converted into tragedy. Just like the potential for a low pressure weather system to cause widespread damage, or not.

Five warning signs and three common fibs can help to forecast dire future H&S events:

A focus on the numbers: The Board, or Executive Team, judges the quality of H&S by the direction of injury rates, near-miss reports, investigation close-out rates, number of safety training courses or tool box meetings etc. Little is done to go, look, question, or understand what is going on in their business, and erroneous assumptions are made about what ought to be going on. Incentivized under-reporting and KPIs are linked to keeping the numbers down.

The following comment from an employee is typical of hundreds we’ve heard that corrupt the numbers: “I want to be taken seriously when reporting an accident or a near-miss, not just fobbed-off by my manager, or worse, the situation made a joke of in the lunch-room in front of other co-workers.”

Cheap talk:  Management espouses the importance of H&S, but demonstrates by their actions (or lack of them) that it’s not a strategic priority. They don’t role model an effective safety culture, and do unsafe things that they think no one notices or will be too afraid to challenge.

Blame culture:  Rather than being part of the learning process employees duck for cover when there is an accident or near-miss. Investigations focus on ‘who’ was the problem rather than ‘what’ was the problem.  An approach which is more about finding answers than asking good questions. Typically little thought is given to existing pre-conditions (pressure of work, tiredness, unfamiliarity with task, cramped working conditions etc); little thought given to the quality of supervision or management; and little thought given to the effectiveness of leadership, the quality of the H&S culture, and the rationale and effect of H&S budget constraints.

Smugness: We’ve always done it like this and we don’t have accidents. Optimistic claims that the quality of health and safety culture is known, and understood, without ever measuring it. (No professional manager would dare claim to know the financial state of their business without measures in place.) No need to go into the workplace and look for latent hazards, or have meaningful conversations with those on the floor.

Complacency:  A hopeful belief that that the Board has the experience and knowledge needed to understand the risks and obtain the information they need about H&S from management. A belief by the Executive that management and supervisors throughout the business already have the skills needed to lead health and safety effectively.

(Tens of thousands of our survey responses clearly show that the positive perceptions of senior managers about health and safety are contradicted by the perceptions of virtually all other employees.)

Three common Fibs:

  1. Many Executives say H&S is a strategic priority, but this is a fib because they refuse to get personally involved in engaging workers on H&S.
  2. Boards say the well-being and safety of their people are more important than profit, but this is a fib because their Annual Reports include little more than a few sentences to prove it.
  3. Management says it sets a H&S budget to ensure the well-being and safety of their employees, but this is a fib because an identified hazard has to wait until the next financial year before it is fixed.

Weather forecasting is described as the application of science and technology to predict the state of the atmosphere in a given location, billions are spent on doing so every year, and mankind has been trying to get it right since 300 BC. With today’s advances in science and technology I think it’s about time we modernized health and safety and started to predict the atmosphere and risk profile in a given organisation. It might help potential investors, customers and employees make some useful decisions about whether or not to engage, and may even save one or more lives.

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Is Health and Safety on the Balance Sheet?

By July 5, 2016 Health and Safety Culture, Safety Leadership

Is Health and Safety on the Balance Sheet?

It is unlikely you’ll see Health and Safety Culture on company balance sheets, but there is plenty of evidence to say that it is one of the largest assets or liabilities. Financial performance is strongly interconnected to risk management maturity, and today’s smart leaders know that health and safety must be strategically linked to every decision, and every employee.

Building a mature health and safety culture is easy at first, but it requires true leadership to transform it from: ‘employees may unfortunately be harmed physically or mentally’ (think stressed), to demonstrating: ‘employees are our greatest asset, their wellbeing is more important than profit’.

Lip service and posters won’t do it anymore. Conveniently low ‘lost time’ or historical ‘injury statistics’ won’t reassure future Boards or Investors. Just a guess at the quality of health and safety culture will be seen the same as a guess at the financial wellbeing of a business. Broadcasting objectives focused on injury and fatality rates, and then doing more of the same that caused them in the first place will be judged as just plain lazy.

An immature health and safety culture risks employee and business harm, and is not good enough any longer. Measurement, better understanding, and improvement are now the work of senior managers and leaders everywhere.

What to do?

First, put some architecture in place to inform and prioritize action plans.

Ask for, and get some agreement about what the future safety of employees should look like. That shouldn’t be too hard. No one comes to work to be harmed, and no Board, CEO or Executive wants an employee injured or killed on their watch.

Then find out the status quo. Measure the current health and safety culture, and why it exists in its current form. Are employees fearful about the response they’ll get to an incident? Can they challenge the decisions of those with more authority? Will they stop unsafe work no matter who is doing it? Is H&S seen as a risk focused on compliance, or as a strategic advantage that improves value?

Blame, fear, complacency, and lack of awareness are all aspects of culture we’ve identified tens of thousands of times in our surveys, but only once a light is shone on them is anything done to improve them.

Once you have the results from a robust measurement tool create a list of what is most critical, where there are quick wins, and what will provide the best return on effort.

Then, take action.

Include human centred safety KPIs into executive and management objectives. Educate Board members about the importance of health and safety culture and ask a powerful influencer to champion its improvement. Find ways to make health and safety a competitive advantage to attract future employees, customers and investors. Measure and report progress regularly.

Build a feedback loop.

Try stuff. Your action plans won’t always work as intended, so find out fast if what you’re doing is getting the outcomes you want – or not. If they aren’t, try something else.

Use dashboards benchmarked against your survey results to check the risks that really matter are being reduced, and you are getting the benefits you wanted.

Human centred activity will quickly morph into tinkering around with technical detail if it is not constantly reinforced during the early stages of culture improvement, so keep asking what tangible things are being done to change the culture, are they working, how are they being measured.

Keep referring back to the original architecture to check if you’re moving closer to it, or away from it.

Remember building a health and safety culture that is worthy of being included on the balance sheet is a journey with lots of ups and downs, but in doing so you’ll be ahead of the pack as perceptions about employee health and safety are inevitably transformed.


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Is Safety Culture the missing link?

By June 15, 2016 Health and Safety Culture

How to transform Health and Safety

What exactly is meant by Safety Culture? I’ve heard descriptions like ‘The way we do things around here’ or, ‘Something largely intangible’. Unfortunately it is even described as the technical aspects of site safety, or policy compliance efforts.

Safety culture is all about people, not so much about what they do, but rather why they do it. A useful analogy is the difference between knowing that someone has driven through a red traffic light, compared to actually knowing why they have. Knowing an employee has ignored safety regulations begs the questions ‘So what?’ and ‘Why did they?’ Understanding why they have taken the risk will at the very least, tell us whether they are likely to repeat that action.

A universal definition for safety culture might be useful, but it is even more useful to know:

  • Why the health and safety culture exists in its current form?
  • What impact it is likely to have on outcomes, and employee performance?
  • How to build a more mature safety culture?

Every organisation already has a culture that affects health and safety. A few simple questions will start to uncover its nature:

  • Is your H&S manager a member of the leadership team?
  • Are safety processes skipped when pressure builds?
  • Do identified safety improvements have to wait for next year’s budget?
  • Do senior managers role-model positive safety behaviours?
  • Is safety culture measured?
  • What is most important: profit, or the safety and health of employees?


Safety culture  can be thought about from three angles, represented by Quadrants 1, 2, and 3 in the model













It is fair to say that most effort to improve health and safety still falls within Quadrants 1 and 2. These activities are easy to see, measure and understand. Effective policies, better legislation, harsher penalties, and more inspectors may help improve health and safety outcomes, but like road rules they don’t guarantee how people actually behave.

Even knowing how employees behave in the workplace is relatively easy to observe, but to know why takes a bit more effort, and needs sustained effort within Quadrant 3. Previously management’s stance was: ‘If employees just comply with our policies and procedures we’d have zero harm’, but thankfully that thinking is undergoing a transformation.

Along with a shift from health and safety being decidedly ‘un-sexy’, many clever senior managers are becoming aware of performance benefits linked to a mature health and safety culture. They know there are compelling reasons for establishing an effective safety culture other than saving lives and reducing injuries.

The American Safety Council cites improved reputation and company marketability; increased employee creativity and initiative; improved profit and shareholder value. Forty percent of 231 senior executives cited productivity as the top benefit of effective safety. According to AIHA and OSHA effective health and safety programmes reduce illness and injury by 20 – 40% and return $4.00 for every $1.00 spent. A recent ACOEM study links effective employee health and safety with stock market performance. (Over a 13 year period companies that invested significantly in either health or safety programmes outperformed S&P average rate of return in investment simulations by significant margins).

When Boards and Management devote the same effort to managing health and safety as they do the financial affairs of their businesses, we’ll start to see a genuine transformation of results.    

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Three megatrends will transform health and safety

By June 8, 2016 Health and Safety Culture

Thought leaders already embrace these invisible developments  

Driverless vehicles, cloud computing, Uber and 3D printing are just some of the disruptive technologies revolutionising thinking and business. McKinsey estimate that the application of just a dozen new technologies they’ve identified could have a potential economic impact of between $14 and $33 trillion a year by 2025.

New ideas are only new until they become mainstream. They change the game for careers and business so fast that winners and losers are now defined by the ability to see and capitalise on opportunities early. The ability for clever people and businesses to look beyond long-established models to create new products and services is the differentiator that will determine reward, or business risk.

Three new ideas taking hold across the globe will transform the way business responds to employee health and safety.

  1. Investment Analysis

An effective health and safety culture doesn’t just benefit an organisation’s employees; it has a positive impact on productivity and business results. Visionary leaders realise that an investment in safety culture is a sound business strategy.

Twenty five years ago Paul O’Neill, CEO of Alcoa, understood that nothing was more powerful than safety to motivate employee passion for high performance, teamwork, and engagement. He changed Alcoa from an ‘also-ran’ behemoth and increased sales by 5 times to $23billion, increased profit by more than 5 times, and market capitalisation by 10 times.

EY recently conducted 576 interviews with companies around the world and reviewed 2,750 analyst and company reports to assess the maturity of risk management practices. They then worked out the relationship between that level of maturity and financial performance. The best top 20% companies generated three times the level of EBITDA than those in the bottom 20%, and twice that of the middle 60%.

During 2015 Citi Research compiled an in depth analysis of the safety performance of the ASX 100 companies and 26 others in response to strong investor and company interest in their safety research and data. The report summary comments: “A company’s safety performance and approach can provide a window into ‘management quality’. A safe business may also be a well-run, efficient business”.

Fourteen years ago the British HSE commissioned a report: ‘Health and Safety Indicators for Institutional Investors’. The overarching finding even then was: “Institutional investors have a significant level of interest in Health and Safety, and it fits well with corporate social responsibility/socially responsible investment. Investors are generally supportive of the idea that good health and safety performance is an indicator of good management, and are generally interested in finding out more about Health and Safety”.

Today investment analysts, insurance, and financial providers are increasingly interested in injury rates and fatalities, process safety information, safety and executive remuneration, and leading indicators of health and safety culture. Typically most companies devote more space in their annual reports to the pedigree of their directors than to how they keep their employees safe. But now a leading group of smarter companies include details about how every strategic decision effects, and is enhanced by, health and safety considerations.

Boards and Executives will have to report robust health and safety data to satisfy an increasingly aware group of stakeholders. Responsibility is being driven by government regulations, public expectations, digital connectivity, millennial employees, business supply chains, and customers.

The first of the three health and safety megatrends increasingly means no one will want to invest in, or work with businesses that fail to provide transparent and robust health and safety reports, nor those who regularly harm their employees or rely on not doing so, by luck.


2.  Recruitment

The second most fundamental human need is safety and security within family, at work, and within their community. The desire to feel safe is not just an idle ‘want’, it is a compelling sub-conscious ‘need’.

According to Gallup, worldwide engagement levels are extraordinary low, only 13% employees worldwide are engaged, (30% in the US, 24% in Australia and 23% in New Zealand).This is hardly surprising given a widely held belief that the majority of businesses have no ambition beyond profit. Conversely there is an almost universal desire by employees that business leaders place greater emphasis on their wellbeing.

I’ve worked with companies who’ve reported widespread absenteeism, gear failure, plant breakdowns, cost overruns, and even covert sabotage until the leadership team demonstrated that they genuinely cared about the wellbeing and safety of employees. A transformation in the thinking of the most influential leaders about health and safety, also transformed employee attitudes and assumptions about their employer. It engendered a positive sense of reciprocity, and this in turn contributed to the elimination of these events and their associated costs.

Boosted employee reciprocity and engagement are a great start for attracting new hires, but businesses face growing competition for talent in areas like science, information technology, engineering and mathematics. Attracting knowledge workers with higher-level skills is becoming critical for businesses wanting to fast-track success, but today employees are becoming more informed about what is being offered in areas other than financial rewards, and they are increasingly selective about who they want to work for.

The ability to demonstrate that the employer/employee relationship is more than just a transactional one, based on the exchange of labour for money is a trend already embraced by Gen Y Millennials. Along with them, fewer and fewer high quality employees will be attracted to, or tolerate, workplace cultures that only pay lip-service to health and safety.


3.   Public Expectations

As well as publicised efforts to encourage individuals to make sure that they get home safe to their families every day, workplace accidents continue to disrupt lives and cost billions of dollars.

In New Zealand our Accident Compensation Commission accepted 193,991 claims for injuries while at work (2014-15) costing $3.5 billion; Australia recorded over 500,000 workplace injuries (or one every working minute) at a cost of over $60 billion (greater than 4% of GDP); USA chalks up 8.4 million workplace injuries (23,000 every day), and kills another 15 workers a day. An estimated cost of $192 billion.

Year after year these numbers are tolerated as part of doing business in developed nations, but they are only a fraction of an endemic toll around the world. The ILO (International Labour Organisation) estimates a worker dies every 15 seconds, and during the same time a further 153 workers suffer a work-related accident. (That’s 5,700 dead, and 64,000 injured per day).

So far it has taken events with news-worthy loss of life and injury to be the catalyst for improved workplace health and safety.

  • In New Zealand the avoidable explosion of methane gas at the Pike River coal mine killed 29 men, and was the catalyst for the Government to introduce new legislation, establish a new Worksafe Department, and employ a fleet of inspectors. Investors lost about NZ$400 million, but the biggest loss was to the West Coast Community where the mine operated. They lost their men, economic sustainability, and endured feelings of impotence when they raged against the culture of profit verses safety by big business.
  • In Bangladesh the collapse of the garment manufacturing factory in Savar, on the outskirts of the capital Dhaka, killed 1,138 and injured more than 2,000 employees. This single event was reported as the catalyst for western retailers to demand factory inspections which identified 80,000 safety hazards in the 1,106 inspected. (An estimated 4,500 garment factories produce US$24.5 billion worth of clothing every year).The question asked was whether western retailer ‘hand-wringing’, and the safety investigations called for, were driven by concerns about reputation and loss of sales back home, or a genuine care for Bangladeshi workers. It might be reasonable to conclude that if the latter was true, safety audits would have been carried out prior to awarding business to the factories offering extremely cheap deals.
  • In China where 200 workers are killed at work every day, a giant double explosion in Tianjin killed 150 people and injured more than 700.

While authorities ordered an immediate investigation many members of the public protested, ostensibly, as one commentator wrote, because of the high level deception and carelessness it exposed. Others called loudly via the media, when they could, for prompt change and a new culture of transparency.

Each of these examples signal an approaching tide of public reluctance to accept the status quo. We are all shocked by multiple deaths from a single incident but have until now accepted that it’s OK for the equivalent of seventy-five A380 plane-loads of workers to be killed every day in one-by-one workplace accidents.

Social responsibility is a growing force across the world (Social responsibility is an ethical framework and suggests that an entity, be it an organization or individual, has an obligation to act for the benefit of society at large). A megatrend fuelled by the social matrix means that aware consumers are starting to boycott businesses that do not act ethically. Exposure about inadequate safety practices; a campaign against employee harm; and the power of internet connectivity are each ingredients that combine to rapidly cause a titanic shift in perception towards a brand, product, or company.

Like transformation everywhere, megatrends are easy to miss or ignore.

  • Historically investors have been ambivalent about the implications of effective corporate health and safety, but the destruction of business value and public outrage, along with unavoidable conclusions about management capability, has meant a shift in thinking has already stared.
  • Recruiters are experiencing a shift from the historical attitudes of “What can this prospective employee bring to the business” to prospective employees asking “What will this potential employer do for my career and my wellbeing?” Employing and retaining the best and brightest has always been a critical business issue, but today’s prospective employees are better informed and are choosing to avoid workplaces that eschew their wellbeing and safety responsibilities.
  • The public and customers across the world are now all part of the social matrix that comments on ethical issues that interest them. The vast majority of consumers are beginning to understand the need for corporate social responsibility and while much of that concern is based on ‘green’, their way of sending a powerful message to businesses that injure or kill employees is to simply avoid purchasing their products or services.

The health and safety of employees (and other stakeholders) is coming of age, and while the transition for some leaders and businesses will be difficult, ignoring it will be at their peril.

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Is it safe in the Boardroom?

By June 8, 2016 Health and Safety Culture

How to think about Boardroom health and safety.

Across the world health and safety culture has become a business issue.

Until recently responsibility for most health and safety has been at an operational level, but now there are real pressures to ensure enterprises have an effective ‘health and safety culture’. This will demand a much greater degree of expertise, strategic thinking, and real leadership.

As unpalatable as it may be, the research says that sixty per cent of business (and safety) results are attributable to an enterprise’s culture, and eighty per cent of culture is attributable to leadership, (read business owners, board members, and executive team members). This is particularly disconcerting if we ask who is ultimately responsible for killing and maiming employees at work.

The good news is that given the expertise of most successful business leaders, it would be fair to assume that when they do turn their skills and attention towards building effective health and safety cultures, then the appalling global statistics will rapidly improve. (About 240 employees per hour are killed at work – my guess is that not many of these happen in the Boardroom or Executive Suite)

Tougher financial, moral, and legal obligations for directors to exercise due care for employees may help, but I hope the growing awareness that an effective  safety culture is a powerful leadership tool to improve business productivity, quality, engagement, and financial performance provides more of an incentive. These are all aspects of a business that executives and board members are interested in, but only now is the link between safety culture and business performance finally beginning to be recognised.

We’ve been measuring health and safety culture for more than seven years and one of the most frequent responses we hear from senior managers when they receive their company’s results is: “We had a gut feeling that these issues were present, but we’ve never been able to quantify them until now, so we could never identify where the risks existed, nor how to make the necessary improvements.”

Everyone seems to agree that negative reactions to accidents block communication and crush learning, but alarming numbers of employees and managers say that they think the most important piece of safety gear in their organisation is ‘butt protection’. It is obvious no amount of safety training, equipment, or policies will ever compensate for a workplace culture where employees are too fearful to speak-up or report an incident, and yet a culture of blame is alive and well in the majority of large and small enterprises. Unquestionably Boards and Executive Teams both have the ability to change a blame culture into a learning culture, all it takes is the will to do so.

To improve safety outcomes, don’t start by changing the systems, or processes already in place. Start by changing hearts and minds. Show how important health and safety is, not by forcing employees to comply with rules and regulations (they’re important), but instead, encourage managers and leaders to actually demonstrate they care. Before that happens some courageous questions may need to be asked, for example:

  • Who is ultimately responsible, and accountable for safety outcomes in your business?   Do they know they are?   How are they accountable?
  • Do senior leaders and managers consistently demonstrate that workplace health and safety is important? Do their employees think they do?
  • If something is identified to improve safety, can it be done instantly? Or does the budget process mean it waits until next year in the hope that no one gets hurt in the meantime?
  • Is safety top of the agenda or do profit, production, and process get the most attention? Is safety seen as a strategic priority? Is safety effectively represented by an executive?
  • Is identifying someone to blame the reality of accident investigation?

What would be the response if a new CEO or Board member said: “People, and their safety at work, really are the most important asset we have – they are more important than financial goals, and we are going to make their health and safety our number one priority?” So far, when I’ve asked the question during conference presentations, I’ve been greeted either with guffaws, or a deafening silence.

International research makes a persuasive argument for building an effective safety culture. As well as contributing to improved reputation and company marketability, they cite increased employee creativity, engagement, and initiative along with gains in productivity, profitability and shareholder value. (Given those attributes, it might not be too much of a leap to link poor productivity with poor health and safety statistics.) Certainly I see a significant difference between employees who think they are regarded by management as just another ‘human resource’ used to generate more dollars, compared with the attitudes of those who believe management first has a genuine interest in their wellbeing.

There is no doubt that understanding and building an effective safety culture takes effort and resources, but for Board and Executive Team members, that is nowhere as onerous as having a serious harm accident or death at work.

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Smart enough to see the warning signs?

By June 4, 2016 Health and Safety Culture

Learn how to save lives and reduce accidents at work.

A serious workplace accident or death doesn’t come without warning, but being able to read the warning signs appears to be an art many workplaces across the globe seem to lack, or management simply chooses to ignore.

This is evidenced by the fact that after an incident, investigations show in case after case that, “There were a number of practical steps that were open to the company which would have prevented the incident”. Companies are still being fined in the courts for their lapses, but this does little to enhance their ability to see the warning signs.

It is well proven that even exceptional compliance with all the right processes, safety equipment, and safety audits, can be quickly undone by an ineffective and weak safety culture.

Recognising early warning signs that a safety culture is not as good as it could be, may mean the difference between taking proactive corrective action, or having to suddenly react to an incident where someone is seriously harmed, and the focus is once again diverted to repercussions, and blame.

So what are some actions you can take to improve your business’s health and safety culture? Here are just ten ideas:

  1. Health and safety culture starts with leadership. Ask your most senior managers to make sure that any employee or contractor understands that when they step come to your workplace they:
    • are told that they are coming onto the safest workplace in the industry. (Why would you invite them to step onto the second, third, or tenth safest workplace?)
    • are told why it is so safe
    • are told what is expected of them
    • are told about the key safety beliefs of the company
    • are told the company is only interested in working with others who share their health and safety values
    • are told that if they cannot support the company’s health and safety practices and culture, they should leave.During recruitment, screen front-line supervisors carefully, they are the ones who will support, mentor, and help employees live your safety culture, or not.
  2. Measure your health and safety culture. Even our preliminary, and simple, Safety Culture Litmus Test will signal if the safety culture is a risk factor.
  3. No accountant would ever guess the financial status of a business, nor should anyone try to guess something as important as safety culture.
  4. Identify and remedy hazards. All of them. Your entire workforce should be identifying, resolving, and be communicating about hazards. Being pro-active makes for a safer environment, and builds employee engagement.
  5. Recognise and reinforce behaviour consistent with the desired culture. For example, ensure everyone is comfortable stopping at-risk behaviours no matter where it occurs.
  6. Be tough on problems, not on people. Avoid the rush to blame – it is usually systems and practices that inadvertently encourage risky behaviours.
  7. Build a ‘Just and leaning culture’. Learning from mis-takes helps employees become more proactive, removes fear of unfair discipline, and helps build teamwork, productivity and trust.
  8. Make health and safety a strategic business advantage. Effective health and safety is strongly indicative of an effectively managed business. The best customers, best employees, and best business investors are actively interested in the quality of leadership and management.
  9. Encourage employees to speak-up; to question things that don’t work for them; to speak openly about things that need to change; and explore ways to resolve problems alongside management.
  10. Ensure health and safety is considered within every strategic and operational decision.

If an effective safety culture is a core value, then it has to hold hands with the core value of caring for those you work with. Unfortunately these sorts of ‘values’ are often regarded by some managers as “the warm fuzzy stuff”, in fact nothing could be further from the truth. Working with people, influencing them to engage and change is the toughest, most courageous work any manager has to undertake. Dismissing that as warm and fuzzy is simply a cop out.

There is plenty of evidence that businesses that genuinely care for their employee’s wellbeing enjoy high levels of employee satisfaction and consequently customer satisfaction. This shows up as better productivity and profitability. An effective safety culture is not only the catalyst for improved safety, but also for improved efficiency, quality, service and delighted customers.

Your safety culture serves as an excellent warning signal not only for the safety of your most important asset, but also to forewarn whether half your employees are, in effect, sitting in the departure lounge waiting for a better and more caring employer. The art of seeing the warning signals starts with measurement, so then potential risk can be managed and resolved. It does not start with crisis and then the question “What do we do now?”


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Banking on Safety?

By June 4, 2016 Safety Leadership

An effective health and safety culture doesn’t just benefit an organisation’s employees, it has a positive impact on productivity and business results. Visionary leaders are beginning to realise that an investment in safety culture is a sound business strategy.

The connection between safety as business social responsibility, and business fiscal health is starting to be recognised as a sound business strategy. Leaders who ‘get it’ understand the price of a commitment to safety, but more importantly, know as an investment it pays real dividends in business and human capital. They actually understand that people are their most important asset. These leaders and visionaries have a genuine concern for their employees, and know improved health and safety outcomes contribute to:

  • improved market image and customer trust
  • lower costs
  • better employee relations and trust
  • increased productivity and reliability
  • improved business capability.

The idea that health and safety performance is a critical leading indicator of the overall competence and quality of an enterprise is not too hard to understand. There is little doubt employees working in an environment where their safety and wellbeing is paramount, are more likely to feel valued; be concerned about quality; be highly productive; and make customers happy. There is also little doubt employees who work in an environment where health and safety is all about compliance and ‘lip service’ will treat their job, their employer, and their business in the same manner.

Across the world, health and safety used to be delegated to “someone who needs a bit more responsibility” but was not an up-and-coming star. It’s unfortunate that being responsible for health and safety was not seen as a career path to the executive team, and no doubt this has contributed to the shocking global carnage that occurs in the workplace every day (The equivalent of a football stadium with 63,000 spectators injured and everyone in 480 football teams killed every day).

Perhaps health and safety responsibilities should be delegated to the company’s smartest financial person. They could then provide a credible analysis of the Return on Investment (ROI) of any increased expenditure in health and safety programmes. Even a simple analysis could compare programme costs with an actual, or risk of injury. They’d quickly determine there are two types of costs, direct (investigation costs; production downtime; legal, court costs and fines; management time etc), and indirect costs (loss of goodwill and reputation; business interruption; loss of employee and client respect; reduced quality of potential employees, customer and investor attrition are just a few.)

For HR managers and strategically minded health and safety managers, it is important to remember that increasing the significance of health and safety carries the same financial responsibility as every other part of the business. Simply hoping that taking the moral high ground will sway a pragmatic executive team, or board of directors, is lazy and ineffective. They may agree to spend more money but a valuable opportunity to shift their thinking from ‘cost’ to ‘investment’ will have been lost, and the argument for increased resources will not be welcomed back with any great enthusiasm in future. The business case for increased expenditure on a health and safety programme should be prepared with the same diligence as, for example, a new product or services development, and the crunch point should be that any expenditure they approve will positively affect the business’s bottom line.

Providing more safety gear, inspections, audits, processes, and more regulations are important but they don’t get to the heart of the business issue. Health and safety is not just the absence of danger, it is a state of mind.

The first investment step in a strategic health and safety programme is to measure what sort of culture already exists. It will be a product of the beliefs, attitudes and assumptions held by senior management, and consequently right through the business. No other part of the business process is guessed at, so measuring health and safety culture is simply good practice. Done well it will save resources, identify risks, reduce workplace incidents, and begin a process that increases employee engagement, and has a positive impact on productivity and sustainable business results.

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Workplace fatalities are avoidable

By May 30, 2016 Safety Leadership

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The idea that workplace culture, along with human factors, combine with hazards to cause accidents is widely recognized. Today in modern workplaces, human centered leadership is a vital for accident prevention.

In the airline industry a passenger would have to fly every day on a U.S. domestic jet for 19,000 years before they died in a fatal accident. The reason air travel is so safe is mostly to do with airline executives understanding that the safety of their passengers is a very important business issue.

Where leaders demonstrate that the health and safety of their employees is a very important business issue then productivity, engagement, and outcomes all improve.

Why then is workplace health and safety so often a low level business activity until an incident happens?

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