Creating a safe working environment for your people is crucial, not only for compliance with laws and regulations, but also for reducing operational costs, increasing employee satisfaction and retention, and boosting your company’s image.
The biggest barrier preventing organisations from establishing a positive health and safety culture is attitudes to the subject. While large corporations are taking health and safety more seriously than ever before, some smaller enterprises appear to struggle to promote and enforce good practices. Employees can find requirements burdensome or may hold the view that health and safety only contributes to ‘red tape’, leading to reluctance to carry out certain tasks.³
By implementing the engagement strategies below, you can embed a culture of health and safety within your organisation that stands the test of time and saves you money in fewer incidents and higher employee satisfaction.
Online learning and resources
Distributing online training and resources to your staff on a regular basis is perhaps the easiest, low-effort method of promoting safer work practices, and it doesn’t even have to cost you a penny.
In November 2023, an innovative government-backed campaign by the Health and Safety Executive called ‘Working Minds’, was launched in the UK⁴. The campaign encourages organisations to sign up for their free online learning platform, designed for employers and their employees to address work-related stress and mental health in the workplace.
For most low-risk workplaces, the biggest concern is how to look after their people’s health and wellbeing. In Ireland, poor mental health accounts for 18% of all work-related illness reports, and this figure increases as firm size increases. For firms with more than 50 employees, 40% report mental health-related sickness absence⁵. The Working Minds campaign brings the principles of risk assessment to life and is an easy way for SMEs to get started on their health and safety journey. Here in Ireland, the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) also offers courses online, free of charge: https://hsalearning.ie/
Recognition and rewards
Completed a fire drill that went without a hitch? Perhaps one of your employees promptly identified a potential hazard before it turned into an issue. It’s important to value their efforts to cultivate a strong safety culture. In doing so, you spread a message that it’s not just rules that must be followed, but a core business value that is celebrated, encouraging everyone to continue to prioritise health and safety.
Create an in-house safety committee
Fostering a proactive and collaborative approach to identifying, addressing, and preventing health and safety risks is a great way to get people to advocate and rally behind the subject. A safety committee should be led by the person(s) responsible for health and safety in your workplace, most likely your operations manager. However, it’s important to involve people from all departments and roles within your business, and this should be achieved through electing personnel. After all, health and safety affects us all.
The Health and Safety Authority recommends considering the following issues:
- Risk protection and prevention
- Appointment of duties
- Risk assessments
- Preparation of a safety statement
- Reported accidents or incidents
- Suitable training and implementation of new technologies⁷
Share the results of your health and safety audit
With health and safety regulations and industry ‘best practices’ evolving all the time, it’s important to know what you need to do to keep your employees safe and on the right side of the law. An audit will look comprehensively at how you are measuring up as a business against the regulations and requirements applicable to your business.
Being transparent about your audit results builds trust and confidence in your organisation’s dedication to maintaining a safe work environment. Accountability can drive a collective responsibility for safety and informs your employees about specific notes for improvement that should be on their radar.
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.