The term “health and safety” often gets used in a negative way as it’s associated with petty rules and red tape. Yet health and safety is the bedrock of a happy, healthy workforce.

It’s the key to making sure your employees feel valued as human beings – and, most importantly, that they get to go home safe every single day. Leaders need to put building a health and safety culture at the top of their priorities list.

1. Be Aware of Stress

Over the years, there’s a perception that the “health” side of health and safety has been neglected.

The latest Health and Safety Executive (HSE) statistics show that 54% of lost working days due to ill-health are caused by stress, depression or anxiety. Leaders can’t afford to ignore this problem. Create a workplace where mental health is discussed openly and make sure people who are struggling know where to go to access additional help.

If you have senior people in your organisation with stories to tell about mental health (and they’re willing to share them), this can be a powerful way of encouraging others to speak openly about the subject.

It also reinforces the message that struggling with stress, depression or anxiety is no barrier to success at work, which can be a powerful thing to hear for somebody suffering in silence.

2.Train Your Staff

Making the workplace safe is a joint responsibility between employers and employees. To do this, employees need clear guidance about their duties and top-quality training about all relevant health and safety topics.

Aim to refresh this annually. Training isn’t just important for new starters.

3. Make Health and Safety a Priority, Not an Afterthought

“Health and safety” can’t be reduced to a series of short-term initiatives. It needs to be a constant focus. Workers who know their wellbeing is valued will be happier in their jobs and will take their own responsibilities towards it, such as wearing the right protective equipment, more seriously.

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Regular discussion and consultation with all staff will help to embed the culture. If you have introduced a new drive to improve safety in a specific area, check back regularly to see how well your message is getting through.

This could mean monitoring safety and accident levels. But it’s also important to have genuine discussions with the people involved, who may be able to suggest improvements.

Risk assessments should be reviewed periodically to check they are still relevant.

4. Listen to Your Employees

581,000 people sustained a non-fatal injury at work in 2018/19.

How many of these could have been avoided if employees had been empowered to speak up about the hazards in their environment before they became a problem?

Each employee is the expert on their job. Leaders need to listen to them about their health and safety needs and take their concerns seriously.

Related Article: Are You Listening?

Room for Improvement

Levels of work-related ill-health have remained broadly flat in recent years. Though there has been improvement in some areas, in others there is still a way to go.

As leaders, it’s vital to take health and safety seriously – it may be the most important thing you do in business.

How Can Leaders Build a Culture of Health and Safety in the Workplace?

If you have ideas that you feel like sharing that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

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Darren Hockley
Darren Hockley is an MD of DeltaNet International, which specialises in health and safety eLearning courses.
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