Why a positive health and safety culture is essential to Zicam
There’s a much-quoted definition of what a safety culture is and that comes from the UK Advisory Committee on the Safety of Nuclear Installations in 1993: “Organisations with a positive safety culture are characterised by communications founded on mutual trust, by shared perceptions of the importance of safety and by confidence in the efficacy of preventive measures.”
That quote really hits home to me as Zicam’s Health and Safety (H&S) Representative, because it’s how we operate on a daily basis and to a very high standard. I trust our engineers to conduct their work safely and they trust me to ensure that they’re not put into an unsafe environment. We have equal responsibility for their safety from the minute they leave home to the time they return and we all behave safely and appropriately at all times. It’s very much a two-way street when it comes to trust.
A positive health and safety culture for all
We place a lot of emphasis on H&S because it shows the engineers that just because we don’t see them as much when they’re out on site, their wellbeing is still our top priority. My job as H&S representative is to make sure that no-one is uncomfortable in a work situation, and that even before they arrive we know what they’re walking into. It’s all about pre-planning, understanding and communicating so both our engineers and customers feel confident about the job.
We maintain a positive culture because the effects of not having it can have severe consequences. A poor culture leads to an increase in accidents and incidents; if someone is off work for a time someone else has to be found to replace them and that takes time. There’s a greater chance people will leave if they don’t feel comfortable or safe and that has implications of high staff turnover, recruitment costs, training costs and, depending on the accident and injury, legal costs as well. A poor culture is bad for morale and will ultimately affect a company’s bottom line.
How to build a positive health and safety culture
Each company will have their own ways to build their H&S culture, at Zicam we’ve taken the following approach:
- Commitment from management – a positive, evident ‘tone from the top’ motivates everyone to put H&S at the centre of every task they perform.
- Visible management – again, it’s that positive reinforcement. If senior managers are seen at site visits and attending Toolbox Talks they become more approachable, encouraging staff to speak up about concerns or unsafe behaviour.
- Active employee participation – this creates ownership and shows that health and safety is not just the responsibility of one person, it runs throughout the company.
- Open door policy – it’s essential that employees know they won’t get penalised for reporting an incident and they can approach me or a manager at any time either in person or by phone.
- Consistent communication – repetitive messaging and two-way communication between all levels throughout the company underpins the success of our H&S culture.
The benefits of having a positive health and safety culture doesn’t just sit with the employer, there are also gains for employees and customers. Let’s take a look at what the top three benefits are for each.
- Low absenteeism – if people are educated about H&S and the messaging is positively reinforced, there will be fewer accidents and less time spent off work.
- Low staff turnover – when people feel safe and secure at work they’re generally happier and less likely to leave which cuts out the indirect costs of recruitment, onboarding and training.
- Reputational impact – a responsible company with a great H&S culture is a company customers want to work with.
- Greater confidence – an employee who knows there is support from an H&S representative who has safety as their top priority feels more confident in their role.
- High productivity – employees are more productive in a workplace that demonstrates commitment to H&S.
- Improved wellbeing – with no worry or stress about having to perform unsafe tasks, employees feel comfortable and safe which is great for overall wellbeing.
- Trust – an accredited company with a proven H&S record means customers have peace of mind that work and people at their site are safe.
- Values – it’s becoming increasingly important for companies to work with suppliers whose values match their own.
- Corporate social responsibility (CSR) – H&S is a key element of an organisation’s CSR strategy and shows the customer that they’re working with an ethical company.
The final word from me on creating a positive health and safety culture: it’s simply the right thing to do!
Sophie Hancox, Health and Safety Representative and Operations Manager, Zicam Integrated Security Limited.
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