Occupational Safety

Safety culture: Your path to successful occupational health and safety management

7 fundamental facts and practical tips for establishing a positive safety culture

6 minutes25.01.2023

“Safety culture” – what exactly does this rather abstract term mean? What does safety culture assessment look like? And how can companies work to establish a positive safety culture? This page outlines the key facts about safety culture and provides a host of tips and a selection of articles, whitepapers and webinars to help you find out more. You can also click on one of the 7 facts below to skip to a specific topic:

Fact #1: Every company has a safety culture

Fact #2: A positive safety culture is developed step by step

Fact #3: Managers play a crucial role to

Fact #4: Getting people involved is the ultimate goal

Fact #5: Less is more: Positive safety culture relies on streamlined processes

Fact #6: Without targets, there can be no measurable success

Fact #7: What are the benefits of a positive safety culture?

Definition: What is a safety culture?

Your company’s safety culture, also known as health and safety culture, is the sum of its employees’ combined attitudes, beliefs, perceptions, views and values in relation to every aspect of occupational health and safety (OHS). It determines the priority assigned to OHS and how employees perceive and practice safety in their day-to-day work. The more positive a company’s safety culture, the more its employees will think ahead and adopt safe behaviors.

Fact #1: Every company has a safety culture

The question of whether your company has a safety culture is not decisive– because safety culture is characterized by everything that happens (or does not happen) in relation to occupational health and safety. In other words, every company has a safety culture of some sort. It may well be negative, i.e., rudimentary, suffer from a lack of management responsibility or be impaired by ignorance among the wider workforce.

Only a positive safety culture will enable your company to progress. It will protect your employees, ensure safety specialists and managers are able to act, and also boost motivation. Establishing a positive safety culture is the key to preventing accidents, reducing lost time, and minimizing production losses and process interruptions.

Safety culture at Karlsberg

A safety culture success story

The Karlsberg Brauerei success story shows how a clear direction, streamlined processes, and digital support can help foster a positive safety culture. The result: A 70% reduction in the time spent producing risk assessments thanks to the efficient integration of managers and seamless, flexible instruction on occupational health and safety topics.

Read the success story

Fact #2: Your safety culture improvement action plan is developed step by step

Think back on your school days. Did you progress straight from first grade to college? Of course not. It wouldn’t have been productive in any way and would only have hindered you.

When it comes to establishing a positive safety culture, assessing the current situation in your company is a decisive first step. You can then implement measures to help you reach the next step (rather than skipping ahead). One established safety culture model is the Bradley Curve: It helps define the status quo in an organization and improve its safety culture. The Bradley curve depicts four stages of safety culture. A company’s culture can be attributed to any one of these stages and be developed to reach others. Companies in which accidents occur frequently are in the first stage (negative safety culture). At the other end of the spectrum, in the fourth stage, are companies in which accidents are rare or do not occur at all (positive safety culture). Between the first and fourth stages are two interim stages. Each stage is characterized by a behavioral basis in relation to occupational health and safety. This is based on a key question: What is the foundation to prevent accidents - natural instincts, rules and supervision, responsibility, or shared responsibility?

The Bradley Curve

When it comes to establishing a positive safety culture, you must first assess the current situation in your company. Use the most established safety culture model, the Bradley Curve to find out how to do this and discover the steps you can take to improve safety at your company, motivate your employees, and reduce your accident rate.

Read the article

Fact #3: Managers play a crucial role

One of the most important guarantees of success in founding a positive safety culture is having role models. Above all, managers must be aware of their responsibility and fulfill this role. Every single day. Only then can an effective safety culture take root and spread among employees. The management’s commitment to the safety culture must be clear for everyone in the company to see. However, this goes further than simply serving as a role model. A clear commitment to safety culture also includes actively engaging in safety-related conversations, OSH campaigns, participating in audits and investing in occupational health and safety.

Exert your influence

Managers hoping to push a successful transition from unsafe to safe behaviors need expert insights into psychological and practical aspects. Stefan Ganzke, an expert in safety culture, explains in this article how to get people motivated about occupational health and safety and how you can influence this process by intervening at the right point in the safety loop (thought – reaction – experience – mindset).

Read the article

Fact #4: Getting people involved is the ultimate goal

Imagine you’ve been invited to attend a talk. Turning up and listening to the speaker is no big deal. But, if we’re honest, a lot of the content might go in one ear and out the other. However, preparing this talk and presenting it yourself is an entirely different proposition. The same principle applies when establishing a positive safety culture: Employees need to be actively integrated in safety-related tasks, such as drawing up safety rules and standards and planning and conducting safety inspections and audits.

Rethinking participation

Once your safety culture reaches a certain level, conventional methods will no longer be enough to reduce the accident rate. Instead, you will have to find modern ways to get employees on board. Familiarize yourself with the following concepts:

  • Behavior-Based Safety (BBS): Relying on teamwork, behavioral analysis, and positive reinforcement to promote safe behavior.

  • Psychological Safety: A culture of failure and feedback is the key to success. Motivate employees to report incidents and learn together from mistakes.

  • Safety II: For every accident, there are 9,999 safe incidents. Maximize safety by understanding and promoting what works well.

Download the whitepaper

Fact #5: Less is more: Positive safety culture relies on streamlined processes

Making sure you don’t overburden your employees is essential. There’s no sense in producing hundreds of regulations and initiatives, adding more and more each week like a magician pulling rabbits from a hat. Instead, safety-related measures need to be straightforward, targeted, and easy to understand. The same goes for individual processes. They need to be adapted to specific sites’ rules and statutory safety standards and provide coherent, standardized instructions. This makes the topic of safety easy to understood and effortless to internalize. 

In addition to employees, however, safety specialists and OHS managers also need support and assistance to implement modern occupational health and safety. Once a company grows beyond a certain size, the only way for safety professionals to work efficiently is with specialist software support. EHS software simplifies these traditional occupational safety processes, by automating incident management and automatically updating legal registers and safety data sheets, for example. A software solution can clearly display all occupational health and safety activities, linking them to the people responsible – from employees, managers and specialist staff to auditors or executives. In addition, they can often generate evaluations and reports in just a few clicks.

Safety culture software

EHS software helps managers and the entire workforce strengthen their company’s safety culture. However, poor usability and missing functionalities can have exactly the opposite effect. We’ve put together a guide to help you navigate the process of selecting a suitable EHS software solution. It covers a number of key questions:

  • What functions does the software have and how would they make your working day easier?

  • What selection criteria would be relevant for your company?

  • How can you convince company management and budget administrators to invest?

Download the whitepaper

Fact #6: Without targets, there can be no measurable success

People often say that the journey is the reward. There might certainly be something in that. However, if you don’t define exactly where the journey is going, you risk simply standing still. Setting clear targets is, therefore, one of the most vital instruments when establishing a robust, resilient safety culture. To begin with, a company could aim to reduce the number of accidents by a given percentage. After that, the company can set more modern targets, like increasing incident reports, the number of safe behaviors or safety-related meetings.

Other potential targets include reducing psychological stress, improving ergonomic working, reducing noise exposure, optimizing occupational safety-related communication, achieving a more positive perception of occupational health and safety or increasing employee participation in safety processes.

Whatever targets a company sets for itself, adopting a systematic approach is essential: It enables the company to trace progress with vigor and, ultimately, achieve its targets. First, safety managers cast light on the relevant processes and record, document and analyze incidents that occur. Based on this data, the company can then formulate clear targets and derive appropriate measures. Once this process has been established as a fixed part of its safety culture, the company can take another step forward.

The right KPIs

How can you understand the current status of your safety culture, set targets and communicate successes? That’s right: by using KPIs. A wide range of KPIs are used in the field of occupational safety. They rely on various reference values and can also be separated into lagging and leading indicators. Find out what to consider when selecting KPIs for your company and which elements define SMART criteria.

Find out more

Fact #7: What are the benefits of a positive safety culture?

A positive safety culture will provide numerous benefits for your company, including:

  • Enhanced protection for employees

  • A healthy, motivated workforce

  • Improved team spirit

  • Quantifiably fewer accidents

  • Reduction in injury-related lost time

  • Protection for systems and machines

  • Lower production losses

  • Fewer process breakdowns

  • Improved procedures

  • Higher efficiency and productivity

Modern occupational safety

Budgeting for success

Successful companies invest an appropriate amount each year in developing their safety culture. There are 6 good reasons why you should do the same – and why occupational health and safety requires modern solutions to help your company make sustainable progress.

Read the article

Summary: How to create a safety culture in the workplace

A positive safety culture is the heart and soul of successful occupational health and safety. It is a crucial part of ensuring employees are continuously encouraged to behave safely and avoid accidents. Developing a safety culture is a journey that progresses step by step. Safety managers have numerous instruments at their disposal to use at different stages on the Bradley Curve. By applying a combination of these instruments and adopting a gradual, systematic approach, you can drive your safety culture forward – and drive your company toward success.

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