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March 13, 2015

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Have your Golden Rules lost their lustre?

3 Golden Rules for every Golden Rules programme

In any organisation, there are many safety rules and systems and it can be hard for people to take them all in and remember them. Safety rules can be complex, both for those who comply and even those who enforce them.

For this reason, many companies try to focus people on understanding the most critical ones by developing a list of core ‘Golden Safety Rules’, derived from their biggest risks, i.e. those that are most likely to kill or seriously injure their people. These may also be known as ‘Absolute Rules’, ‘Life Savers’ or even ‘Safety Non-negotiables’, to name a few!

Obviously, it doesn’t mean that other health and safety laws are no longer important but these Golden Safety Rules are the absolute minimum that everyone must comply with – whatever else is happening.

Get it right and each rule could be a critical building block in better dialogue between management and workforce about the safety that really matters. Get it wrong and they’re just another management tick-box, with no relevance to day-to-day work.

More and more, as a partnership, we are being asked by our customers to help them revitalise their Golden Rules; so what are the three Golden Rules for Golden Rules?

  1. Get the language right

Try to avoid the “Thou shalt not” trap. If your rules are all about discipline, with heavy, stern language, then people will switch off and it will widen the division between workforce and managers. By using phrases such as ‘I will’ rather than ‘Do not’, you are giving people ownership of the rules, involving them in the process and giving them the opportunity to use them.


  1. Don’t have too many


Keep them to as few rules as possible and make sure that they cover the high-risk situations or behaviours that lead to the most serious injuries and death in your organisation. Something like driving, for example, affects almost everyone and is bound to be a top accident statistic.


Even if the Golden Rules don’t apply to everyone in your business, it’s important that everyone understands how they can support each other to follow them. An office worker, for example, should feel enabled to challenge a colleague working at height without a harness.


  1. Make them engaging


To convince people you are serious about your rules, you need to really sell them. Posting a list of rules on a noticeboard will not engage anyone. Your rules should be marketed appropriately, using media that will engage and enthuse your workforce. Whether this is with team exercises, videos, marketing collateral or discussion groups, your rules need to be ‘lived’ by everyone and talked about as part of everyday life.


If you create the right tools and training, managers will understand the importance of being seen to endorse the Golden Rules, of getting out and about meeting people, talking with them about safety and getting them to visualise the real consequences of their actions. If people are engaged with the rules, they will eventually be successfully ingrained into your company’s culture and lead to accident reduction.


Clare Solomon, Managing Director, Hill Solomon

[email protected]

Clare is Managing Director of UK- based internal communications consultancy Hill Solomon Ltd. Clare has extensive experience in delivering successful culture change programmes using a powerful combination of behavioural safety training and communication tools to change attitudes, values and beliefs at every level of an organisation.


Mark Ormond, Managing Director, JOMC


Mark Ormond is Managing Director of JOMC culture change consultancy practice. Mark has been instrumental in building programmes to support business performance improvement through cultural and behavioural change.

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