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How EHS Departments Can Build a Workplace Safety Culture

Posted by EHS Insight Resources on June 10, 2019 at 10:02 AM

It’s one thing to develop a workplace safety program. Developing a workplace safety culture is another matter entirely.

A safety program can be built in a few meetings. A whole new culture involves diligent work and ongoing cooperation at all levels. Here’s how EHS departments can build successful safety cultures and improve on the cultures they already have.

Building a Safety Culture

Safety culture is a product of individual and group efforts in the workplace. It’s the attitude or beliefs that employees share in relation to the handling of safety issues in the workplace.

It’s not built on safety policies alone. It’s also about how you handle safety issues when they arise.

How well do you listen to your employees when they bring up problems? Successful workplace safety cultures are two-way streets. In today’s world of social media and business savvy, employees are no longer willing to tolerate a “my way or the highway” approach.

Cooperation and openness are the foundations of a good workplace safety culture. You can put in all the policies you want. If you don’t prove to your employees that you’re willing to step up to the plate to keep them safe, those policies won’t mean much.

Here are three things you need to start building a strong safety culture.

Forward-Looking Accountability

Many people think accountability is synonymous with blame. When accountability is done right, it has an entirely different focus.

Backward-looking accountability is the type that involves blame. In this type of accountability, you’re more focused on assigning blame to someone for making a mistake than preventing the mistake from happening again. Sometimes, blame is helpful. But if it devolves into a witch hunt, it’s no longer a learning experience.

Instead, strive for forward-looking accountability. This type of accountability focuses on the changes that need to be made to prevent the same mistake, rather than reprimanding an individual for making a mistake.


Everyone likes to believe they’re a good boss. But if you’re looking to build a strong safety culture, it starts by looking within.

Companies with strong safety cultures aren’t reactive. They don’t need to be. Safety is a part of daily activity–and a part of day-to-day management that leadership recognizes as an ongoing responsibility.

Unfortunately, many managers get too caught up in safety metrics to move beyond reactivity. Metrics do play an important role in your safety culture–they tell you what you need to improve. But if you want to improve those metrics, you have to look past them. Look at root causes and see how you, as a manager, can help eliminate problems before they arise.

Strong Relationships

In case you hadn’t already guessed, strong relationships are the bedrock of any lasting safety culture.

If your employees don’t believe that they can have honest conversations with you, they won’t feel comfortable coming to you with problems. And if they don’t feel comfortable coming to you with problems, nothing will ever change.

The good news is that being a good leader and building good relationships go hand-in-hand. Don’t just point out problems–point out good work as well. Seek understanding and listen actively when problems arise. Seek feedback on your own effectiveness–and act on the feedback you receive.

Ready to Build a Strong Safety Culture?

Still have questions about how to build a rock-solid workplace safety culture? You’ve come to the right place.

We help you build safety programs through innovative EHS software and resources. If you have more questions about how to build a truly great culture, don’t hesitate to check out our blog for more useful ideas and tips.

Topics: Workplace Health and Safety, EHS Management, Safety Management, Safety Culture

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