Safety Culture: Attitudes Towards Risk Taking and Rule Breaking in the Workplace

What's happening at your workplace?

Life is pretty simple. The more risks you take – the more likely you are to get hurt.

If the culture at your workplace is that it is okay to break the rules sometimes to get the job done, then you can be sure that you run a higher risk of one of your workers being seriously injured.

Safe Work Australia recently completed a study of workplace culture, Attitudes towards risk taking and rule breaking in Australian workplaces and found that Labourers were generally more accepting of risk taking and much more accepting of rule breaking within the workplace in comparison to workers in other occupations.

These findings may help explain the high rates of injury and fatality within the Labourers occupation group. This suggests that urgent action in the area of leadership to improve attitudes to work health and safety may make an important contribution to reducing the incidence of injury and fatality amongst these groups of workers.

These findings strongly suggest that health and safety is not being given priority in all work processes and decisions. Workplace cultures appear to play a role in the acceptance of risk taking and rule breaking. There is a need for workplaces to think about attitudes towards risk taking and rule breaking. Urgent leadership is needed to change what appears to be a culture in many Australian workplaces that it is acceptable to take risks.

How can I improve my Safety Culture?

Leadership comes from the top. There are many clichés such as “walk the talk”, but it's correct. Your staff watch your every move – if you show that it is acceptable to take risks then that is the culture that will predominate.

Remove or retrain workplace leaders. Natural and positional leaders are the next step. If they understand and agree with your expectations regarding safety then the rest will follow.

Let's not forget that everything has a cost, purchasing a safety system costs, implementing a safety system costs, injuries and workcover claims cost. However, from experience, the biggest cost is the cost of changing workplace safety culture when the workplace is at its worst and risky behaviour has been well embedded.

Some small steps to Improving Safety Culture:

1. Take that extra time to ensure personnel understand what you expect when it comes to safety,

2. Ensure personnel are wearing and using all their safety clothing and equipment,

2. Show personnel what safety really means, take the time to carry out work in a safe manner and don't take unsafe risks, even if you're running late on a job,

3. Talk safety, this can either be via a 'who of organsiation' meeting, small group meetings or placing posters and/or information around the workplace to raise safety awareness,

4. Reward safety initiatives. When personnel raise safety initiatives, reward them, even if it's a simple certificate of recognition. Reward and recognition is a great way to raise awareness and enthusiasm,

5. When developing your business budget for the following financial year, include a budget on positive safety culture ideas, instead of waiting for your regulator to show up and hand over a fine or for personnel to get hurt and submit a workcover claim, or prosecution charges.

Changing culture isn’t easy – it takes commitment, planning and patience. However, it can be done. Give our team a call to assist you improve your Safety Culture.

Encompass Business Solutions are experts in workplace Safety Culture. Give us a call to discuss how we can help you improve your workplace.