Promoting a positive health and safety culture: using the Safety Maturity Model


For the past five years, WorkSafe VIC’s marketing campaigns have focused on reminding parents to stay safe at work so that they can come home to the people that need them most. In 2017 alone, 175 Australian workers were killed whilst on the job. While this is a sobering number, it can be reduced by implementing and promoting a positive safety culture in the workplace.

Accidents and organisational culture are interrelated, because the gravity and rate of mishaps that occur do reflect a workplace’s culture. By using a Safety Maturity Model in your factories and sites, you can help bring more people home after their day is done.

What is the Health & Safety Maturity Model?

The Health & Safety Maturity Model aims to identify strengths and weaknesses within a system, and to create policies around these safety management system standards. While many industries have well-established models, others may need to put more effort into best practice and identifying the right tools and techniques to ensure a safety model is put into place and, most importantly, adhered to.

Safety models, which can be applied on a site-by-site basis, can help to address any behavioural and cultural issues. In the first part, the Model focuses on the common set of values, beliefs, attitudes and working practices that regulates an employee’s behaviours. In the second part, the Model is used to create a framework for identifying how an organisation can improve their safety culture.

There are five levels that occur in order for any organisation to improve their safety culture. These are:

1. Emerging: This is usually the first step, and where safety is seen as a procedural issue.
2. Managing: This level is the opinion that safety can be solved by following procedures.
3. Involving: The realisation where operators, management, and employees all must work together to improve safety in the workplace.
4. Cooperating: A general understanding occurs where safety and health are important, and that safety measures are put in place.
5. Continually improving: The ‘final’ step, in which a common understanding occurs where the entire organisation works to improve safety performance.

Whatever level your organisation currently may be at, Bodycare can help you reach the mature safety model approach.

How does safety culture affect an organisation?

Measuring safety culture is important as it can help move conversations from the vague to the specific, allow for the tracking of progress, provides motivation and feedback, and identifies strengths and potential improvements.

Safety culture, in its loosest terms, is described as ‘the way that it is done around here.’ These beliefs and attitudes affect how safe employees in the organisation will behave. A good safety culture is committed to well-being, occupational health, and the environment.

The Hudson Model effectively recognised that a safety culture has five aspects:

Just and fair: Team members who fully understand what they need to do, and that there are consequences for every action.
Learning: People who are open to suggestions.
Mindful: Staff who are always alert to expect the unexpected.
Leadership: Managers who show genuine leadership, and not just manage
Respect: Staff who believe their actions make a difference to all around them.

Safety culture is only as effective as the people that implement them. Rather than just strengthening barriers such as hazards or risks, your business should work to improve safety culture for all employees.

Where to go from here: safety culture assessments

Organisations still have a long way to go – while many companies may feel that they are addressing all the issues at a board level, a different response may be revealed by the workers on the front-line. Listening to and putting your employees’ concerns first instead of making sure all the boxes are being ticked is just one of the ways in which you can ensure your safety culture assessment is really being effective.

Despite all the advances in safety performance across a range of industries over the last three decades, there is always room for improvement when it comes to a health and safety culture. What good is enhanced engineering design and equipment, or safety management systems, if the safety culture is not evident?

Keeping open lines of communication throughout a business is imperative when it comes to enhancing a company’s safety culture. Give workers the opportunity to ask questions so that they feel engaged and a part of the solution to have a better safety culture.

Former Alcoa CEO, Paul O’Neill, revolutionised the way one of North America’s stalwart manufacturing companies transition from being one of the largest, stodgiest, and most potentially dangerous companies into a profit machine and a bastion of safety?

How did he do this? By attacking one habit and then watching the changes ripple through the organization. “I knew I had to transform Alcoa,” O’Neill has been quoted in saying, “But you can’t order people to change.”
“That’s not how the brain works. So, I decided I was going to start by focusing on one thing. If I could start disrupting the habits around one thing, it would spread throughout the entire company.”

By shifting worker safety habits, O’Neill had created patterns of better communication.

O’Neill left Alcoa in 2000, but the legacy of his keystone habit lived on. In 2010, 82 percent of Alcoa locations didn’t lose one employee due to an injury – close to an all-time high. On average, workers are more likely to get injured at a software company, animating cartoons for movie studios, or doing taxes as an accountant than handling molten aluminium at Alcoa.

If you would like more information on how your organisation can develop and promote your own Safety Maturity Model and change the safety habits in your workplace, speak to Bodycare today.