How to Improve Safety Culture: Transforming the Workplace Through Consistent Safety Practices

Discover practical strategies proven to enhance your organization’s safety culture and successfully foster a culture where workers prioritize safety.

What is Safety Culture and Why is it Important?

Safety culture refers to the collective personal values, beliefs, and subsequent behavior that employees share regarding safety in the workplace. When workers are dedicated to prioritizing safety in all facets of the operations, their accidents, and near-misses are decreased. Consequently, the company can comply with regulations and, more importantly, encourage employees to accomplish their daily tasks confidently and efficiently. 

The Importance of Assessing the Current Safety Culture

Businesses that disregard the concept of building a safety culture will encounter several issues and, with very little doubt, fail to resolve them promptly and effectively. The only way to reduce hazards and mitigate risks is if workers are accountable for their safety and the safety of others. Whether a company is just about to commence on this journey or is striving to strengthen its current programs, conducting regular assessments is vital.

Here are specific ways in which company leaders, HR teams, and safety professionals can evaluate the climate of safety in their workplace:

  • Analyze safety data – High injury and illness rates, increased lost time resulting from injuries, and severe safety violations are performance indicators that show a lack of caution or care among employees.
  • Observe workplace behaviors – Conducting regular site walks and inspections to see if employees adhere to internal protocols is necessary. It provides valuable insights that aid in determining potential areas of improvement.   
  • Examine organization structures and workflows – Identifying, reporting, and managing hazards should be embedded in employees’ daily routines. If this is not the case, there may be something amiss with the current framework (e.g., lack of safety officers) or the processes, which should be changed immediately. 
  • Conduct safety-related surveys – Actively engaging workers through feedback, one-on-one interviews, and focus group discussions contribute to a holistic understanding of safety beliefs and behaviors. When those on the front lines can openly air their experiences and concerns, companies can be more successful in creating a culture of safety. 

Strategies for Improvement

After completing a thorough assessment, relevant personnel can begin brainstorming recommendations on how to improve safety culture. Any of these methodologies will work for small start-ups and even in large-scale operations. 

Lead by Example and Commit to Safety Initiatives

Dealing with diverse teams in complex projects (e.g., multi-structure construction and mining operations with several sites) is incredibly challenging. It is fraught with communication and coordination issues that result in compromised safety measures. 

Leadership commitment is vital in building a robust culture of safety. Top management should be able to demonstrate dedication through the following: 

  • Diligently participating in scheduled programs with their employees and contractors.
  • Allocating adequate resources for safety initiatives.  
  • Strictly following the rules and regulations they have set.

Engage Employees in Earnest

Simply informing workers about safety initiatives is not enough to foster a robust culture of safety. They have to be part of the process of building it. 

For instance, a transportation and logistics company that operates across state or country lines would succeed in protecting their drivers on the road when the latter’s input is welcomed. The drivers know the risks they face on a daily basis better than the dispatchers or office administrators. 

Here are some ways how to encourage worker participation when it comes to safety across industries:

  • Foster a sense of ownership among employees. When workers feel they belong to an organization that cares for them, they will contribute more to its success.  
  • Promote inclusive and proactive communication through feedback. 
  • Recognize and reward those who demonstrate safe behavior. 

Open Communication Lines 

Production laborers in massive operations like agricultural farms or manufacturing factories often feel isolated and disconnected. And it doesn’t help when managers only feed them safety information through outdated methods (e.g., posters, binders, once-in-a-blue moon personal calls, or meetings).

Leaders can better develop policies, procedures, and safety expectations after establishing a two-way communication channel. In this manner, employees can immediately voice their concerns about new rules or processes. They can also report incidents and near misses without fear. Other ways of opening communication lines are: 

  • Utilizing technology such as communication apps and management software solutions for prompt hazard or incident reporting.
  • Encouraging feedback by launching a safety suggestion program where employees can submit their comments about current policies and procedures or recommendations for safety-related improvements.
  • Informing workers regularly about safety news and updates through newsletters and regular safety meetings

Train and Educate Everyone Involved

Investing in comprehensive safety training programs for all employees and contractors is vital in improving safety culture. 

First, this supports workers in accomplishing their tasks confidently and efficiently. Second, training increases their awareness of hazards, promoting a proactive safety mindset. Finally and most importantly, it changes employee behavior, encouraging them to adopt new habits that prioritize safety. 

Here are some tips on how to accomplish training, especially for large-scale workforces. 

  • Tailor the program to the audience. Administrative workers need ergonomic practices, fire safety, and evacuation procedures in the office setting. On the other hand, miners and construction workers require site-specific training, such as machine hazard recognition, fall protection, and excavation safety. 
  • Include regulatory requirements and standards set by agencies overseeing the industry the company belongs to. 
  • Utilize technology like Virtual Reality (VR) simulations to allow immersive and interactive experiences. It also ensures that workers get hands-on practical training while minimizing the risk of accidents.

Monitoring and Sustaining Safety Culture

To establish a culture of continuous improvement, companies should be diligent in monitoring and regularly evaluating safety performance. Doing so is a cyclical process, as it involves  constantly assessing the current level of safety in the workplace, figuring out ways to improve it, implementing the program, and then re-evaluating it. 

With new hazards and risks emerging every single day, organizations should be steadfast in safeguarding the health and well-being of their employees and ascertaining that this becomes a way of life in their workplace.

Eunice Arcilla Caburao
Article by
Eunice Arcilla Caburao
Eunice is a content contributor for SafetyCulture. A registered nurse, theater stage manager, Ultimate Frisbee athlete, and mother, Eunice has written a multitude of topics for over a decade now.