Good practice

Written health and safety policies and risk assessments are important legal requirements, but they are only part of the overall safety at work story. Creating a culture at work where everyone is aware of, and acts within, the safety limits is equally important. A healthy workplace culture is all about behaviour and practices; it’s about demonstrating and reinforcing the right conduct while discouraging the wrong kind.

It is vital for employers to positively promote good practice and training throughout their organisations. An effective health and safety culture needs everyone in the workplace to be conscious of the health and safety aspects of their environment and actively support measures for their own and colleagues’ safety. Senior managers can set the tone with good practices for others to follow. Leaders must be seen to support good health and safety practices with deeds and not just by words. It is essential that employers pay close attention to every aspect of the workplace and identify all potential hazards to employees’ wellbeing. These include the physical working environment, workload, harassment, production methods and even incentives and payments.

Creating a health and safety culture

Conversations about safety must take place without embarrassment or anyone feeling they’re being stopped from getting on with their work. Incentive schemes and payment systems with difficult targets can lead to workers taking safety shortcuts to achieve those targets. Yet with each non-fatal injury costing employers an average of £1,400 and seven days’ absence adding a further average amount of £4,800 to the bill, working safely should be a target in its own right to concentrate minds and prevent injuries. Employees can be encouraged to mentor each other and discuss where they could improve among themselves.

Healthy lifestyle

Many employers are now encouraging healthier lifestyles among staff by promoting good diet, helping workers quit smoking or by managing stress with flexible working policies. This needs to be done sensitively, of course, with respect for individuals and without intrusion into private matters. Some of the most successful health programmes are based on asking employees for their suggestions rather than imposing ideas upon them.