Special Topics in Safety Management

8 Core Elements of a Safety Culture

A safety culture is an essential element of an safe and productive workplace. A successful safety culture is based on 8 core elements.

The term “safety culture” reflects the commitment of personnel to safety at all levels of the organization. Safety culture has been defined in a variety of ways, such as:

  • “The way we do things around here”
  • A set of attitudes, beliefs, or norms
  • A safety ethic

Safety Culture Indicators

  • Safety leadership
  • Effective communication
  • Employee motivation
  • Continuous learning
  • Lack of blame culture

In a blame culture errors are ignored or hidden. Employees feel fearful and many report high stress levels. Employees are not recognized or rewarded, thus lack motivation. In a culture of blame management decisions are made without employee consultation, and there is often high staff turnover.

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8 Core Elements

  • Management commitment to safety
  • Job satisfaction
  • Training, equipment, physical environment
  • Organizational commitment
  • Worker involvement
  • Co-worker support
  • Performance management
  • Personal accountability

To develop a safety culture the organization must be informed and continually learning. This involves agreeing on ways to analyze incidents to reveal all issues and wanting to learn from near misses before they become accidents. The workforce must be encouraged to realize that all incidents are worth reporting. Reporting systems that are easy to use will help with that.

As part of developing a safety culture, a company must:

  • Get rid of the idea that blame is a useful concept, which is hard to do
  • Define clear lines between the acceptable and the unacceptable
  • Have employees involved draw up the guidelines (guidelines won’t be accepted if they are imposed from above)
  • Have clear procedures about what to do with non-compliance
  • Experiment with changes when new information comes in and not be afraid to admit failure the first time around

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