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How to Foster a Positive Safety Culture in your Workplace

October 10 2021

Warehouse workers with hard hats and a forkliftAll workers have a right to work in a safe and healthy environment. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, maintaining safety in the workplace has been an ever-changing process as workplaces rise to the challenges of distancing restrictions, lockdowns, ramped-up hygiene and cleanliness procedures, and mental health support for managers and staff.

Maintaining a positive safety culture in the workplace means continuing to place high importance on safety principles, values and attitudes. A positive safety culture means improved workplace health and safety, which can have a trickle-down effect on increased productivity and performance, greater rates of staff retention and of course, reduction of workplace incidents.

There are three key elements of positive organisational safety culture: positive leadership, addressing safety stigma, and effective communication.

Actions do speak louder than words, and how you demonstrate your attitude towards workplace safety is reflected by your team. Strong evidence suggests that workplace health and safety performance is better if leaders demonstrate a positive attitude to safety. Leaders can promote a positive workplace culture in any of the following ways:

  • Comply with the workplace safety plan
  • Communicate regularly with staff to identify and address issues and risks
  • Anticipate and manage risks before they cause harm
  • Invest in workplace safety related staff training and upskilling

Reduce the stigma

Workplace safety goes beyond minimising physical risks, and includes mental ones, too. In the most recent National Return to Work (NRTW) Survey by Safe Work Australia, one-third of workers anticipated negative repercussions (such as bullying or retaliation) from colleagues in response to disclosing a workplace injury or illness. What is even more alarming is that 15% of respondents said that their employer actively discourages incident reporting, which means there are still ample opportunities for improvement.

Discouraging this sort of discussion has a compounding negative effect on workplace culture. It may mean that workers conceal their injuries or accidents, which can result in workplace risks not being addressed, and more workers could be subject to similar incidents. Furthermore, staff may feel the need to use more of their sick leave entitlements, or leave the company entirely – and a high staff turnover is not only costly, it impacts employee morale.

Two-way communication

A great step to fight the stigma is through open and honest discussion. Regular engagement and consultation between you and your team is vital to opening conversations about health and safety. It’s important to hear employee concerns and to share your own, and circulate information and resources to collectively boost workplace safety knowledge. It’s also important for your team to be a part of the process of solving health and safety issues, so that they can put their knowledge of workplace safety to practical use.

It’s a good idea to schedule regular safety meetings or incorporate a safety discussion in your regular team catch-ups. This ensures that safety is a more integrated part of operations, rather than something to be reminded of every now and then. Consequently, safe behaviours and attitudes will come more naturally in the workplace, benefiting everyone.

Fostering a supportive and open work environment is to foster a healthy one – positive leadership means a positive team and a thriving business.

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