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Safety and Health Practitioner (SHP) is first for independent health and safety news.
February 13, 2015

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Turning the tables: 5 ways to change negative perceptions of health and safety

Thanks to media hype surrounding the banning of everything from conkers and snowballs to fireman’s poles and park benches (all revealed in the HSE’s mythbusting panel), it is no wonder that health and safety is often treated with a universal groan. In the workplace, many people see safety rules as simply something to comply with, an obstacle that gets in the way of doing a job. So how do we turn the tables on this negative perception?

  1. Be proud

Safety is simply a part of conducting yourself in a professional manner and has so many positive aims. It’s about protection, quality, wellbeing, productivity and, most importantly, getting people home safely every day. Don’t cringe or apologise for it – the next time someone asks you what you do for a living, they won’t roll their eyes if you tell them that you save lives!

  1. Sell safety

Safety won’t sell itself. You need to think of the safety message like an advertising campaign – ensure it grabs your employees’ attention and gives them something to think about. This could be through a collective slogan or theme, such as BAE’s Start Safe, Talk Safe, Home Safe, which you can then hang your safety culture change message on. Whatever you do, think above and beyond the notice board and off the shelf poster.

  1. Lose the blame culture

Often there is a perception that people will be blamed if something goes wrong, which may mean incidents are hidden – you can’t address safety issues if you don’t know what they are. Often the way managers react when things go wrong will feed the perception for blame and this will quickly spread negativity through the workforce. Culture change training for managers might be a good idea.

  1. Engage your staff

You need to understand who you are talking to and what motivates them – make it personal. This can be as simple as a face-to-face or group discussion or as big as a company awareness event. If you can engage your employees and show them that you have a sincere interest in their wellbeing, then they will take a personal responsibility for the success of the organisation.

  1. ‘Champion’ safety

Peer pressure is a powerful thing. Therefore use this to your advantage and train up non-safety professionals to be ‘safety brand advocates’ or ‘champions’. Change will come from within, negativity will be challenged and the effects have been proven to last.

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