The word ‘culture’ has many different definitions: an anthropologist will tell you that it’s about ways of living, passed from generation to generation. Microbiologists, meanwhile, will think of bacteria, while to others it’s knowing the difference between Bartók and Bordeaux.
Culture also refers to an environment, such as a workplace, where ways of doing things are developed through time and practice. A successful culture is one where those ‘ways of doing things’ contribute positively.
A successful safety culture is one in which every employee is actively invested in safety, where reporting hazards and acting upon them is second nature to everybody.
But in a negative safety culture, where employees are discouraged from reporting incidents, or unmotivated or afraid to do so, the outcomes can be disastrous.
A 2014 study into barriers to effective safety reporting in healthcare, carried out by researchers from the University of British Columbia, found that the main issues faced by employees were:
- time constraints
- a sense of futility
- a lack of education on reporting
- an inaccessibility of reporting forms
Although the study’s research was focused on healthcare workers, the findings reflect common challenges faced by many employees: so what steps should health and safety professionals to overcome concerns and help enable the development of an effective safety culture?
- If time is a problem, make reporting quick and easy
The easiest way to encourage employees to engage in safety is to make simple, easily accessible systems and tools available.
A busy worker might be unwilling to find and fill out a paper incident book in a remote office drawer – but digital solutions, such as user-friendly mobile apps, can encourage on-the-spot reporting.
- Give employees a safety voice
Getting employees engaged in safety is fundamental to a good safety culture. A strong ‘safety voice’ empowers people and helps to position safety as a value – and not just a ‘box-ticking exercise’ imposed from on high.
- Use the right tools for the job
Given that most people now use apps to check their bank balance, order food or book travel, ordering food and banking, why are ‘traditional methods’ such as paper forms or spreadsheet-driven systems, still so prevalent in safety?
Web-based platforms and mobile apps allow people to engage with safety in a way that resonates with them, and aligns with the way they manage their lives outside of work.
- Accessibility is everything
Engaging with safety as it happens, in ‘real time’, improves reporting rate, so accessibility is key.
The ability to access a system at any time, whether on or offline, means that employees can report incidents no matter where they are, easily capturing data in a single location.
When it comes to improving the culture of safety within an organisation, employers can boost results by listening to employees and helping them to use their safety voices.
Using intelligent technology to provide accessible, user-friendly tools allows everybody to contribute to safety conversations. When employees can contribute, they’ll engage: and that engagement means that safety becomes part of ‘the way we do things’
Building a successful safety culture takes more than just a software solution, but by taking an innovative approach towards health and safety management, technology can make a significant contribution to helping keep a workforce safe.