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WTR

Health and Safety Culture

27 November 2016

Health and Safety Culture

Organisational culture is a concept often used to describe shared corporate values that affect and influence members' attitudes and behaviours. Safety culture is a sub-facet of organisational culture, which is thought to affect members' attitudes and behaviour in relation to an organisation's ongoing health and safety performance.

A safety culture is the end result of combined individual and group efforts toward values, attitudes, goals and proficiency of an organization's health and safety program. In creating a safety culture, all levels of management are highly regarded on how they act toward workers and on a day-to-day basis. Senior management commitment to workplace safety helps workers take it more seriously and translates into a safer work environment for everyone. Responsibility for encouraging the safety culture may start with management, but it trickles down to each individual in the company.


Everyone has a part in keeping themselves and others safe.


Organisations with a safety culture show a deep concern for employee well being, and this is reflected in all levels and departments within the organisation. The practice of anonymous observation is mostly eliminated and replaced with management taking the time to walk around their facility to monitor and positively reinforce company values for good and bad incidents. Rewards and incentives can still be in place if they are awarded for the right reasons, such as reporting incidents, including near misses. Within a safety culture, leaders garner knowledge from all areas and use that to improve and promote safety at all levels:

  • Define Document and Delegate Safety roles and responsibilities: Who and what are worker's and officers responsibilities? Do this for each level within your organisation. This should include policies, goals and plans for the safety culture.
  • Share your safety vision: Everyone should be in the same boat when establishing goals and objectives for their safety culture.
  • Hold people accountable: Create a process that holds everyone accountable for being visibly involved, especially managers and supervisors. They are the leaders for a positive change.
  • Provide multiple options: Provide different options for employees to bring their concerns or issues full-face. There should be a chain of command to make sure supervisors are held accountable for being responsive.
  • Report, report, report: Educate employees on the importance of reporting injuries, first aids and near misses. Prepare for an increase in incidents if currently there is under-reporting. It will level off eventually.
  • Rebuild the investigation system: Evaluating the incident investigation system is critical to make sure investigations are conducted in an effective manner. This should help get to the root cause of accidents and incidents.
  • Build relationships of trust: When things start to change in the workplace, it is important to keep the water calm. Building trust will help everyone work together to see improvements.
  • Celebrate success: Make your efforts public to keep everyone motivated and updated throughout the process.

 There's already an extensive range of guidance on the WorkSafe website that can help you.

You can sign up to find out more about what guidance is coming by visiting worksafe.govt.nz.

There are a number of commercial systems designed to guide small business through processes that will make them compliant to the new Act. One such system can be accessed through Work Safe Manager: www.worksafemanager.nz