• Safety Culture -- Does It Link With Safety Performance
  • May 6, 2010 | Authors: Anne Davies; Michelle Haste
  • Law Firm: Crowell & Moring - London Office
  • Safety culture is an incorporation of values within an organization that has a direct influence upon members of the organization's perception towards safety as a practicable and realizable concept within the workplace. A paragon safety culture would preclude accidents and injuries, whereas a weak safety culture may actually contribute to accidents and thus denigrate from expected health and safety standards.

    Research commissioned by IOSH and carried out by Professor Andy Smith and Dr. Emma Wadsworth from Cardiff University attempts to highlight the potentiality for links between safety culture and safety performance. Twenty-eight organizations were involved in the research; these included both private and public sectors. The total number of business units involved amounted to thirty-three, based on several of the organizations' possession of multiple business units. The HSE's Health and Safety Performance Indicator was utilized as a means of charting organizational health and safety performance. Furthermore, the HSE's Climate Survey Tool helped elucidate examples of corporate safety culture.

    The results of the research:

    • The IOSH research summary states that "The business units had fairly high levels of corporate health and safety performance┬┐[and] their benchmark overall hazard management and incident scores were also in the 'average' band."
    • The more hazardous sectors (health and utilities, transport, construction, manufacturing) of employment allegedly had worse overall hazard management and incident scores.
    • The less hazardous sectors achieved poorer benchmark scores.
    • Organizations made up of more than 250 employees had generally higher benchmark performance scores.
    • Organizations which were constituted of less than 250 employees had better overall hazard management scores, however, a lot of these organizations exist in less hazardous sectors.
    • According to the IOSH research summary, around a third of the health and safety practitioners of these business units felt that improvements were required in the following: the involvement of the workforce in proposing improvements to health and safety (contributing to a strong safety culture); risk assessments; the health and safety committee; workforce involvement in identifying hazards; audits and inspections.
    • There was a perceived trend that highly trained IOSH members and practitioners were careful to ensure that increased elements of the safety system were in place.
    • Perhaps quite worryingly, only one third of those involved in the research felt that health and safety was considered of equal importance to alternative facets of the business.
    • It was observed that health and wellbeing increased as a result of positive attitudes towards safety. A positive safety culture is seen as inextricably linked with augmented corporate safety performance.
    • Several interesting links were discovered between practitioners' competence and experiences and corporate safety performance. Remarkably, "lower hazard management scores were linked with higher levels of training and education of advisers", declares IOSH. This could be as a result of the increasingly meticulous reporting of incidents.
    • IOSH's research summary denotes that "Positive links between advice and both specific hazard management areas (repetitive movement, noise and vehicle handling) and benchmark hazard management scores suggest that more competent advice may also be linked to improved safety performance."

    The results of this research indicate that a more efficacious safety culture is conjoined with a better safety performance. However, the relationship between advice and performance is more difficult to discern and there does not appear to be a strict pattern. It is perhaps too problematic to achieve research without any limitations present. Problems faced included vastly different amounts of business units for each sector, which does not provide an equal or accurate reflection of opinion or achievement. There is also a significant chance that only organizations with high levels of health and safety put themselves forward.