5 Safety Culture Challenges Your Enterprise Needs To Overcome

October 24, 2022

6 min read

At SeaChange, we use our experience and expertise to design bespoke systems and solutions that transform organisational safety culture and benefit everyone in the workplace.  

Let’s start with a clear definition of safety culture.  

What is Safety Culture? 

The Health and Safety Laboratory (HSL) aptly defines Safety Culture as ‘a combination of the attitudes, values and perceptions that influence how something is actually done in the workplace, rather than how it should be done’.  

It is the dynamic, collective response to the Safety Message by all people within organisations and can be characterised as ‘the way we do things around here’.  

A positive safety culture can improve workplace health and safety, staff morale, and overall organisational performance. Unfortunately, its complex nature is often not understood or acknowledged by organisations, leading to the inevitable development of a negative safety culture and associated consequences (major accidents, incidents and injuries). 

To ensure the evolution of a positive, sustainable safety culture, your enterprise must first conquer some obstacles.  

5 key safety challenges your enterprise needs to overcome 

1. Ineffective Leadership 

For a safety culture to be successful, it needs to be led from the top – embraced and practised by the CEO and senior managers. A lack of commitment to safety from senior leadership makes it impossible to develop and maintain a positive safety culture.  

Organisations must consistently model safe behaviours from the top down and demonstrate that safety is a core value of the business, championed at every organisational level. The message must be clear that workplace safety is prioritised over production.

Strong leadership and management commitment are directly related to safety performance as it demonstrates by example to employees what actions will be rewarded, tolerated or punished, which influences what actions and behaviour employees initiate and maintain. 

Transformational leadership involves fostering good relationships with other managers and the workforce, building trust, and instilling a sense of value. Better relationships increase the likelihood that people will behave in a way that will achieve the safety goals articulated in the company values. If senior managers have good relationships with their employees, contractors and subcontractors, and they behave in a manner that promotes working safely, workers are more likely to behave safely. 

SeaChange has the Leadership and Coaching expertise to help you develop effective frontline leaders within your organisation. 

2. Poor Communication 

Most organisations struggle to communicate the safety message to their employees in a meaningful, relevant and simple manner. Overly invested in compliance, companies will assign ‘safety police’ to enforce over-complicated, irrelevant rules and regulations. This system provides negative feedback, or no feedback whatsoever, and creates an unproductive ‘preaching parent versus rebellious child’ dynamic.

Being policed in this manner breeds resistance in adults, not cooperation, and ensures widespread rejection of safety efforts; positive safety culture cannot be achieved using the ‘stick’ method. 

Successful safety communication is clear, concise, respectful, relevant, and understood at every level of the organisation. The simple truth is that safety is not ‘sexy’, and people will never embrace something boring or forced. To make safety appealing, practical and accessible, we must engage staff by communicating the safety message through visual means.

Impactful, user-friendly visual training tools, such as the SeaChange Risk Awareness System, increase safety awareness, support consistent local communication and stimulate employee engagement. Instead of policing rules, visual safety systems assist the workforce in building successful habits. 

3. Transactional Safety vs Transformational Safety 

In most organisations, there is a disconnect between management’s safety message and the reality of operator behaviour on the ground. Policies, procedures and standards are implemented with legislative compliance in mind but aren’t people-focused. They don’t attend to the authentic development of safe behaviours. 

Safety management is often applied through observation followed by the creation of endless lists, resulting in an ineffectual paper system incapable of improving accident figures. These text-heavy methods are focused on risk assessment and theoretical risk management.

They do not practically address, in real-time, the occupational health and safety issues experienced and responded to by the workforce. SeaChange offers a range of unique Partnerships to combat this prevalent problem and enhance operator engagement. 

Transactional safety systems are reactive, lagging solutions. They do not resonate with staff, and they fail to recognise the impact of behaviour, motivations and attitudes on the health of organisational safety culture. Safety is a living thing, not a box-ticking, transactional exercise in compliance; it must be understood, witnessed, and practised proactively. If an individual is enabled to view safety as something fundamental to the well-being of themselves and others, it becomes a transformative process; safety best practice becomes a way of life, and safety culture develops in a positive, sustainable way. 

4. Lack of Safety Ownership 

Building a workplace culture that facilitates self-accountability for safety is a major challenge for organisations. Without individual safety ownership, a safety culture cannot thrive. Safety systems and policies are often conceived without workforce involvement, even though they are directly affected on the frontline.

As a result, staff feel devalued and ignored when in reality, they are vital to developing a positive safety culture, which needs to be built from the ground up. 

To foster participation and accountability, staff need to feel heard and considered when safety measures and systems are in development. No one has more valuable insight into the risks and hazards present in the workplace than the individuals performing the work.

When respect is given and safety made personal (‘what makes you feel unsafe?’), people will willingly listen, engage in progressive safety actions and take personal ownership of safety standards. 

Organisations can empower their workforce and instil a habit of safety ownership by creating local feedback forms and implementing local feedback systems, where everyone has a part to play in protecting themselves and others. SeaChange’s Safety Ownership System enables employees to prioritise local risks and action safety correctives routinely, taking control of risk in local areas of operation. 

5. Measuring Safety Culture 

According to the HSA Behaviour Based Safety Guide, ‘What gets measured gets done’. This is certainly true of successful safety culture development but poses an immediate problem for organisations: how do we measure safety culture? 

SeaChange has developed a proprietary solution: our Safety Culture Growth Model©, a five-phased method of measuring safety culture. We can accurately measure where the existing safety culture of your organisation sits on our growth model, then provide tailored solutions to support specific needs and guide your safety culture journey toward success. 

Precise positioning of an organisation’s existing safety culture is an essential starting point to achieving a positive safety culture, as only then can we develop clear, realistic goals and track progress, KPIs and KBIs.

Without this defined framework and bespoke roadmap, organisations remain aimless and frustrated, unsure as to whether they’re meeting their safety targets, unable to gauge the effects of their safety culture development efforts, and floundering in the absence of structure, feedback and measurable results. 

Book your free consultation with our SeaChange experts today and learn more about safety culture and its sustainable implementation within your business.

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