What is Safety Culture?

What is Safety Culture?


Hello, My name is Jen Webster. I’m a Chartered
Psychologist here at the Health and Safey Laboratory and part of my job is to help organisations understand and improve
their safety culture using our Ascent model. One of the questions I am frequently asked
is; What is safety culture? So I thought I would give you a brief explanation
about what it is, why it is important and how you can measure your safety culture. The term safety culture was first used in an initial report published by the International
Atomic Energy Agency in 1986, which identified the organisational and managerial failures
that contributed to the Chernobyl disaster. And in 1993, HSE’s Advisory Committee on
the Safety of Nuclear Installations produced their definition of safety culture.
They said that: Some have described safety culture as the organisation’s personality.
Another way of thinking about Safety Culture is: ‘the way things are done around here!’ Alongside Safety Culture you will often see the term Safety Climate also being used, and
it is not unusual for them to be used interchangeably even by the experts.
To illustrate the differences between the two I like to use the iceberg metaphor – what
you see and what you don’t see Safety Climate relates to the perceptions
held across the workforce at a given moment in time, about the way things are done around
here. It’s measurable. Safety culture is the underlying shared values,
beliefs and habitual working practices that influence health and safety performance, and these
are not always apparent. In other words, like this iceberg the scale
and extent of any issues relating to your safety culture may not be in your line of
sight. So, why should you measure Safety Climate? Looking back at 30 years of Safety Climate
research Dov Zohar describes Safety Climate as a robust leading indicator of health and
safety performance, and we know that organisations with a successful health and safety record
use an appropriate mix of both leading and lagging indicators.
As you can see on the left hand side, Safety Climate consists of a number of antecedents.
These are the elements that contribute towards a strong Safety Culture.
By understanding the Safety Climate in your organisation, you can build on your strengths,
focus on areas for improvement and in doing so you will find you have less injuries
and near misses, and a workforce that is competent, motivated and engaged to work safely.
So, I’ve explained what safety culture is and why you should measure it but where should you start? It is important to have a plan, and we recommend
you use HSL’s ASCENT model to guide you through the change you want to make. You can do this
through a series of manageable steps. First build your foundation for what you want
to achieve and get the support of key stakeholders in your organisation.
Analyse your current Safety Culture by using HSL’s Safety Climate Tool to give you baseline
that will act as your anchor moving forward. Focus on your results – use the survey data
to engage and involve the workforce in decisions about what needs to change.
Form an action plan – following the model you will be able to make evidence based decisions
to develop your action plan And finally you should evaluate how you are
doing as it is important to keep the momentum going as part of an overall plan for continuous
improvement. To find out more information about Safety
Culture or HSL’s ASCENT model join us on one of our First Steps webinars and ask for our free white papers
by contacting:

4 thoughts on “What is Safety Culture?

  1. Its sad that government doesnt worry about this in work at their agencies…waste money and no accountability. They dont care about saving money so they dont care about safety.

  2. The safety culture couldn't be established by a single side efforts by the employer. The efforts have to start from the regulatory bodies. The insistance of regulatory bodies will change the employer perception. Which creates positive environment at work. Safety culture is all about understanding the importance of health and safety at all levels and application of safety rules. Thanks for information.

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