What defines an organisation’s safety culture?
Safety culture is not a difficult idea, but it is usually described in terms of concepts such as ‘trust’, ‘values’ and ‘attitudes’. It can be difficult to describe what these words mean but, in simple terms, a safety culture is defined by what people in an organisation do when they think no-one is watching - rather than what they say.
The Safety culture sprectrum information sheet below summarises the typical characteristics of various safety culture types.
All workplaces should aspire to have a resilient safety culture. Consultation, communication and participation are critical to make the changes required to achieve this.
Within an organisation, even on a single operation, there can be pockets of different safety culture types. Most workplaces will be rule followers or have robust cultures, but some will have vulnerable attributes while others show signs of enlightenment.
How can human factors affect performance?
Understanding how human factors influence human performance is increasingly important as a management aid. There are many reference books and websites on the topic but it can be difficult to comprehend the influence in the workplace of particular human factors. Two sources of useful information are described below.
UK HSE guidance
The UK-based Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has an extensive array of online guidance on human factors. The HSE focuses on topics such as:
- managing human failures
- fatigue and shiftwork
- safety critical communications
- human factors in design
- organisational change
- organisational culture
- maintenance, inspection and testing.
UK Energy Institute guidance
To improve industry's understanding of key human factors in the workplace, the UK-based Energy Institute’s Human and Organisational Factors Committee has produced a resource pack of briefing notes that is available to download or purchase.
The briefing notes provide definitions and introductory discussions of the human factors most pertinent to the workplace. There are also:
- checklists of questions to gauge whether an organisation has a problem related to dealing with human factors
- guidance on what the organisation should do to address each human factor issue
- both ‘negative’ and ‘positive’ case studies (illustrating both consequences and potential solutions)
- potential performance indicators
- further reading lists.
Below is the list of documents that you may find useful.
The following presentations covering topics related to safety culture can be downloaded to use at toolbox meetings.