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5 ways to engage your people in a positive safety culture

March 27, 2024

Every business possesses its own dynamic culture, cultivated over time. Creating a positive safety culture that resonates with the people within your organisation is crucial in ensuring their well-being and your business' success.

With work-related fatalities in Ireland increasing from 28 deaths in 2022 to 43 lives lost in 20231, it is vitally important that proactive measures are taken to stimulate engagement from the people who form the bedrock of your business operations2.

In this article, Paul Cummins, CEO of our Health and Safety division, explores the key ways in which a safety culture that’s firmly embedded within your business can encourage greater employee satisfaction, better wellbeing and overall success of your organisation.

What is safety culture?

A safety culture is the product of individual and group values, attitudes, perceptions, competencies, and patterns of behaviour that determine the commitment to and the style and proficiency of an organisation's health and safety management3. It can be characterised as ‘the way we do things around here’.

What are the benefits of a positive safety culture?

  • Safety compliance
  • Decreased accidents, injuries, and lost time incident rates
  • Increased productivity
  • Employee engagement
  • Employee retention
  • Increased brand reputation
  • Reduced claims and insurance costs
  • Increased ROI (return on investment)4

Here are five effective ways to engage your people in a positive safety culture:

  1. Exhibit strong leadership

Visible and active support and commitment from all directors and senior managers is essential for successful safety and health management5.

Safety must be a core value of your organisation, with safe behaviours modelled from the top down. All are held accountable and no one is exempt from safety policy, for example, wearing PPE (personal protective equipment)6. Lead by example and foster trust by demonstrating to your people that their well-being is an unwavering priority—you care about them and their safety.

In addition to ‘walking the talk’, it is critical that leaders at every organisational level get to know their people, actively listen, acknowledge concerns and complaints, and earn respect through consistent follow-through and positive safety actions. This relationship-building creates an open channel of communication, allowing individuals to comfortably approach their department managers with concerns.

  1. Involve your people

No one better understands the day-to-day risks involved in your business than your frontline people. Involve them in the safety process by encouraging input from every department and providing everyone with the opportunity to present ideas based on invaluable experience.

Form safety teams7 and clearly define roles and responsibilities, establishing goals and safety procedures. Host safety talks to further reinforce buy-in. Emphasise shared values and the importance of everyone’s participation in maintaining company best practices. Every person in your organisation plays an integral part in protecting themselves and their colleagues from harm.

  1. Encourage open communication

Clearly communicate your company’s safety message8. Make safety systems visual and easy to understand. Display these visual aids throughout your business premises.

To create an environment hospitable to reporting safety concerns and near misses, maintain an open-door policy and encourage transparency without fear of repercussions. Conduct regular safety meetings and offer anonymous reporting options, such as placing safety suggestion lockboxes in each department. Address all reported concerns promptly and provide feedback to ensure that employees feel heard9.

Instead of responding to errors punitively, establish a learning environment focused on positive growth10. View reported unsafe behaviours as opportunities to learn from mistakes and adapt practices to prevent further incidents. This policy offers people the security they need to speak up.

Provide regular feedback on growth, behaviours, incident rates and reporting. Keep everyone up to date, enabling your people to feel proud of the progress they have collectively made.

  1. Promote and reward safety ownership

Encourage your people to take ownership of their own safety by involving them in identifying potential hazards and creating practical safety plans. Conduct regular safety audits11 and enlist their help in improving procedures. When employees feel empowered to take an active role in the safety process, they are more likely to take safety seriously.

Remember to recognise and reward good behaviours like good housekeeping, to encourage investment in your company’s safety mission12. Consider implementing a safety incentive program13 that rewards employees for consistently following safety guidelines. Appropriate acknowledgement motivates your people to prioritise workplace safety.

  1. Provide ongoing safety training

Regular safety training sessions ensure your people understand the importance of safety procedures and the potential hazards they may encounter in their work14. Training should be current, job-specific, and cover all aspects of safety, including equipment usage, hazardous materials handling, and emergency procedures.

You can engage your whole organisation and sustain a thriving safety culture through inspiring leadership, safety teams, clear communication, safety ownership, regular safety training, and consistent reinforcement of your people’s investment in themselves.


Dr. Paul Cummins, CEO of SeaChange (an NFP company)

With many years of experience in the health and safety field, NFP’s health and safety business, SeaChange Ltd, is on hand to deliver bespoke safety management solutions that engage the workforce in preventing incidents and help organisations achieve a positive, sustainable safety culture.
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