Does health and safety ruin company culture?

This article is brought to you by 3M

Ask anyone about the factors that underpin a strong company culture and they’ll probably come back with themes like creativity, dynamism, communication and leadership. Health and safety is unlikely to come high on the list. But if you push health and safety down the pecking order, then you should be prepared for the worst.

“A positive company culture is an essential ingredient in an effective health and safety management programme, and vice-versa,” says Rob Green, Senior Marketing Executive at 3M. “It ensures that across all functions, managers lead by example and that employees look out for their own and each other’s safety.”

Particularly in fast-moving entrepreneurial businesses, safety procedures are seen as millstones around the organisation, which get in the way of developing projects and hold back decisions that could move the company to the next level.

But, seen in a different light, positive health and safety culture could be used as a retention tool and a morale-booster for employees. People that feel looked after are more engaged and are generally prepared to work harder towards the business’ goals.

All well and good, but how do businesses go about creating a culture that marries the sometimes conflicting themes of fast progression, quick decision-making, and a careful and studied approach to employee wellbeing?

“It isn’t easy,” says Rob “Firstly it needs 100 per cent commitment from senior managers, supported by consistent messaging and training. It is essential that everyone in the company not only buys in to the importance of health and safety but sees it as a priority.”

Central to any company’s culture should be the idea that employees look after each other. Bosses need to agree on a health and safety policy and decide who will champion this internally .

It’s important to identify the specific risks impacting on your business and to discuss these with your employees. Mr Green believes the best method  incorporates engaging employees by sharing details of your approach right down to the type of safety equipment you should buy.

“The key thing is to consider these areas simultaneously,” he says. “By involving employees and running a trial before selecting a new item of personal protective equipment, health and safety managers can ensure that the product is not only suitable for the working environment but also acceptable to the workers.”

3M has commissioned a series of tongue-in-cheek videos explaining the importance of company culture when it comes to health and safety and showing what the wrong approach looks like when it comes to procuring equipment.

“Many of the health and safety managers we work with have told us that they are under pressure to reduce their expenditure on equipment. They are often required to defend their decisions and prove that they are delivering value for money to their company.

“Organisations including 3M have developed tools to help managers tackle these issues in the past, but with the growing prevalence of YouTube we felt that the time was right to do something a little bit different and take a fresh approach to delivering this message, helping health and safety managers stand up for their decisions.”

You can watch the videos, starring Ewen Macintosh who plays Keith Bishop in The Office, and download a free 3M Wise Choices pack by clicking on this link.

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