Author Bio ▼

Dr Karen McDonnell is head of RoSPA Scotland & Occupational Health and Safety Policy Adviser. She is also the immediate past president of IOSH.

December 17, 2018

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Embedding safety culture into an organisation

It’s no secret that the route to a safer and healthier workplace is through embedded cultures. When thinking about, talking about and acting on safety is an everyday occurrence, good health and safety records are a given, as Dr Karen McDonnell, Occupational Health & Safety Policy Adviser at RoSPA, explains.

Karen McDonnell

Karen McDonnell

Every year at the RoSPA Health and Safety Awards, we inevitably see that the higher-achieving organisations are those with embedded safety cultures – from top to bottom, director level to the shop floor, everyone understands the importance of good safety practice, and so have this at the heart of their day-to-day work.

So what’s the best way to make this happen in your organisation? Well, it’s good to talk.

Communication is the key to success for any health and safety practitioner. As well as disseminating information to employees, it’s essential to encourage two-way communication; to keep an ear to the ground, chat to staff and senior management, and find out where any potential issues lie. This way, you can spot any emerging problems and nip them in the bud at the earliest opportunity, and by genuinely listening to employee’s concerns you also get buy-in for your processes and practices when anything new is introduced.

But it’s also important to communicate with peers, and this is something that RoSPA is facilitating through the awards process.

Around the globe, health and safety practitioners are ensuring their organisation’s employees are going home safe and healthy to their families at the end of every working day. There are some fantastic innovations in the field both at home and abroad, key research with implications for our profession, and prime examples of best practice.

The health and safety community is a dedicated bunch, and we need to make sure we are harnessing this passion to raise standards across the board; we have to share what works well and what doesn’t, and we have to encourage and coach when we encounter those who need it.

Through the RoSPA Awards Excellence Forum, we are building an international network of H&S professionals with exactly this mission in mind. All awards entrants – whether a high achiever for three decades or a first-time applicant – are granted complimentary access to the forum. Once a member, either through our LinkedIn group, at our seminars and networking events or through blogging, everyone is encouraged to share their awards journey, to give advice and information on how to produce a good entry, to ask for hints, tips and help, share what’s going well and to take their awards achievement grade to the next level.

As each entrant pushes all the others to aim higher, we know that we are having a positive effect on the safety of people around the world – at last count, the RoSPA Awards has a reach of more than seven million people in 30 countries.

meetingOur whole strategy is built around communication, as we know this is the best way to embed cultures.

And we also know we can use this strategy to spread good health and safety practice beyond the workplace.

While the UK has made huge strides in occupational and on-road safety, sadly the overall number of deaths and serious injuries from unintentional injury has been experiencing a steady increase for a long time, due to those accidents that occur within the home and leisure-time environments.

Every day, the most vulnerable in society – in particular, the under-5s and the over-65s – are dying or suffering life-changing injuries due to an accident in their own homes or while enjoying some quality time, the prevention of which would be bread and butter for the occupational health and safety professional.

It’s incumbent on the H&S community to help tackle these issues. We have the skills and knowledge needed to make a real difference in the lives of those not directly employed by our organisations, and it would be so easy for us to do.

Through our established and burgeoning channels of communication with our members of staff (and, hopefully, the wider community) we can espouse the benefits of taking good occupational safety practice beyond the workplace threshold. Everything we know and have learnt within our factory units, offices, building sites and warehouse can be transplanted into the home and places of leisure.

We should harness the dedication and passion of everyone employed in health and safety and use it to have a positive impact in the societies in which our organisations operate.

And all it would take is a bit of communication.

Join the Safety & Health Expo Leadership Forum

Your ticket is free, and you'll have access to a range of seminars including:

  • Getting conditions right for people to thrive
  • The case for investing in psychological safety
  • Engaging the workforce in health and safety… and the impact if it goes wrong
  • Changing the perception of consequences – ideas and practical tips based on what’s worked well on our sites

Plus, you'll watch over 100 speakers deliver engaging talks, access 75+ hours of CPD accredited sessions and network with the entire health and safety profession at Europe's most dedicated health and safety event.

ExCeL London | 18-20 June 2019

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