2nd July, 2020

10 Signs Of A Poor Health And Safety Culture At Work

The health and safety culture at work is important. Your business health and safety performance relies on it. But how do you know if your health and safety culture is good or bad? And what can you do to fix it? In this blog post, we look at 10 signs of a poor health and safety culture at work.

10 Signs Of A Poor Health And Safety Culture At Work header image

The health and safety culture at work is important. Your business health and safety performance relies on it. But how do you know if your health and safety culture is good or bad? And what can you do to fix it? In this blog post, we look at 10 signs of a poor health and safety culture at work.

Every business has a health and safety culture. It might be a positive one, or it might be a poor one. Your health and safety culture usually goes hand in hand with your health and safety performance. So if you want good health and safety performance, you need to grow a positive health and safety culture. But growth requires an active health and safety involvement at every level of your business.

If you're having problems with health and safety with your business, you are likely to be suffering from a poor health and safety culture. But because the culture is the combination of the attitudes and values of everyone you work with, it's not always easy to find the problems. Several things can undermine your health and safety culture. Here are 10 signs of a poor health and safety culture within your business.

1. Lack of interest in health and safety

If people have no interest in staying safe and healthy, there's a problem. If your team has no interest in health and safety, and find the subject boring or don't care to engage with health and safety discussions, this is a clear indication of a poor health and safety culture.

A good health and safety culture needs the involvement of everyone. Directors, managers, supervisors, and team members. All working together to improve the health and safety performance of the business. All committed, invested and interested in creating a safe workplace.

2. Weak or no health and safety management structure

In how to grow a positive health and safety culture it starts with management commitment and strong health and safety leadership. A good health and safety culture doesn't just happen by itself. If you have no health and safety management in place, your health and safety culture isn't growing, but shrinking.

3. No health and safety budget

Health and safety is an investment. While health and safety can save you money, you do need to invest in the first place to get a return on that investment. In the long term, through improving your health and safety performance, your costs will be reduced. Saving you the costs associated with accidents (fines, training, replacements, loss of productivity, cost of investigations, increased insurance costs etc).

No health and safety budget means that you are not invested in health and safety. And if you're not invested at the director level, your team won't be either.

Money

4. No resources

Health and safety doesn't just need financial resources (see item 3). You also need to invest some time and the right people. Training takes time. Completing risk assessments takes time. Planning how to work safely takes time. Checking and monitoring take time. And you need competent people available to do this work too.

If there are no resources available to put in place the structure, controls and systems needed to improve health and safety, improvements won't be made.

5. Lack of health and safety communication

The first rule of health and safety is to talk about health and safety. Communication is a cornerstone of a positive health and safety culture. Whether you are sharing important information on the rules and procedures that have been put in place, gathering feedback or collecting ideas on how to make things safer, or getting details on a near-miss event so you can stop it happening again.

A good health and safety culture relies heavily on communication, flowing in all directions.

6. Poor compliance

If you're not complying with your legal health and safety responsibilities as an employer then this is a sure sign of a poor health and safety culture. And a one-way ticket to a big health and safety headache. Think accidents, enforcement action and fines.

What if you have put the rules and systems in place that you need to comply with the law, but they often get ignored? When safe systems of work are disregarded by your team, this is another indicator of a poor health and safety culture. Maybe the rules haven't been communicated clearly or are misunderstood. Or perhaps the rules are confusing or too complex. Or perhaps there's not suitable supervision? Or maybe other business pressures and deadlines prevent compliance.

7. High accident rates

High accident rates are a warning sign of a poor health and safety culture. Even in high-risk industries, no workplace should be unsafe. So, if there are lots of accidents, even if they are minor, your health and safety culture needs addressing. What's going wrong? Rather than a cause of a poor health and safety culture, high accident rates are the result of a poor health and safety culture.

If rules aren't in place, why? If procedures are unsafe, how can they be improved? If controls aren't working, can they be fixed or replaced?

8. Sickness and ill-health

Just like accident rates, high levels of workplace sickness and ill-health could be the result of a problem with your health and safety culture. This could be a sign that a mixture of safety and health issues need addressing. Again this could be the result of lack of compliance, for example, not wearing the PPE provided or not lifting safely. Or a lack of suitable control measures or resources, for example, suitable PPE or training is not provided in the first place.

High levels of absenteeism due to sickness and ill-health are going to be costly, due to loss of productivity, replacement or temporary staff, and sick pay amongst other associated costs. So maybe it's time to take a step back and look at how to grow a positive health and safety culture

Health

9. Under-reporting

Did you know that identifying near misses can stop accidents before they happen? But if you have a poor health and safety culture, then near misses will probably happen regularly, but not get reported. So you're missing out on the opportunity to fix things.

The problem with a poor health and safety culture is that the lack of leadership, communication and resources reduces confidence that anything will be done. So what's the point in reporting it?

10. Lack of health and safety competence

Suitable health and safety training needs to be provided at each level of the business to grow a positive health and safety culture. Managers and supervisors need training on the health and safety topics that they are responsible for, the rules they need to encourage and enforce, and the targets they need to aim for. And every member of the team needs suitable health and safety training to give them an awareness of the risks they face, and the procedures they need to follow.

If there is a lack of health and safety competence at any level, the health and safety culture can fall apart.


Problems with your health and safety culture will lead to problems with your health and safety performance. Find out how to grow a positive health and safety culture.

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This article was written by Emma at HASpod. Emma has over 10 years experience in health and safety and BSc (Hons) Construction Management. She is NEBOSH qualified and Tech IOSH.

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