3 pillars of a positive occupational health & safety culture

Building the right occupational health & safety culture begins with how you approach compliance in the first place. These 3 pillars show you where to start. 

Building a positive safety and health culture” – it’s crucial to any OHS program. (So much so that it was the 2022 theme of World Day for Safety & Health at Work (#SafeDay). And it’s a challenge that many multi-national organizations struggle with. In our work with clients, we’ve learned that culture starts with how you approach compliance in the first place. For people to comply with an occupational health & safety program, they need to believe in it. Not just that they must do it, but that it truly matters. And doing so depends on how you see, show, and share compliance in your company. 


1. Prepare for occupational health & safety requirements before they’re in place.

First up, your occupational health & safety culture can’t survive too many surprises. As priorities change (or, more appropriately, “increase”), people are more likely to get on board for new protocols the more lead-time they have to do so.   

Today, multi-national corporations must meet more requirements than ever before. It’s a regulatory landscape that’s expanding more and more, and for your culture to stay consistent with it, you need to stay ahead of it. Already in early 2022, occupational health tops the charts in our Compliance Intelligence service as the topic with the most regulatory developments. And there’s no sign of it slowing down.  

We see the beginnings of many big changes in occupational health & safety regulations. From India’s long-awaited labor legislation updates to an official focus on EU workers’ Right to Disconnect, there’s a lot to come in global compliance. Not to mention common challenges like teleworking risks and safeguarding workers’ mental health that impact companies and their employees all over the world.  

All of this comes together in a regulatory landscape that continues to become wider. As it does, so must your view of what new requirements could come into place. Shift to a more proactive approach to health & safety compliance management to set your culture up for success. Prioritize forecasting alongside following existing rules to give your team a head start on staying compliant in the future.  

2. Factor in human behavior before measuring (or communicating) failure

If you’re struggling to build a strong occupational health & safety compliance culture in your organization, the solution might just be going back to the heart of your program. Consider enhancing the foundation of your management and monitoring with more complete compliance metrics. 

Consider compliance metrics for behavior that can precede – and hopefully prevent – ‘failures’

The way you track compliance metrics from the start can drive better outputs in the end. For instance, tracking only output metrics, such as penalties, puts the focus on what’s gone wrong. If you build your program purely on that baseline, you run the risk of increasing underreporting rather than engagement. Employees will associate infractions with being judged or punished – and the idea of culture goes out the window. 

Of course, event outcomes like penalties, injuries, releases, and exceedances will always be important to monitor. But they only show part of the picture. Instead, you can overcome many human behavior obstacles by including a broader perspective on measuring what happens in your facilities. Factor in preventative measures, such as training or safety talks, to complement the way you monitor your compliance efforts. Show your employees that more than mistakes matter, and more of them will be inclined to engage. 

3. Choose occupational health & safety training that caters to employees’ needs.

Training is one of the most important pillars in your company’s compliance culture. It’s what keeps them informed of issues and in touch with your program. It’s where they learn the protocols and processes in your company – and how to play their part. If you want your company to have a positive culture about occupational health & safety, employees must have a positive experience when learning about health & safety. 

Yet in a changing workforce and advancing technologies, choosing the right kind of training for employees has become tricky. Some workers get more out of in-person, day-long training sessions than they do from a virtual setting, while others prefer virtual or short, succinct sessions. Sometimes it relates to age and experience – but not always. Get the formula wrong, and you start your culture off on the wrong foot, leaving some team members out rather than including all of them.  

The most successful training programs will continually evolve to not only meet regulatory requirements but also to provide training that is effective and impactful for their workforce. Combine virtual and in-person elements throughout your training program to meet more needs throughout. Consider asking employees directly to share which topics they want to learn more about. Provide information in a format that matches your workforce, and you nurture that engagement for the long term. 

Occupational health & safety culture starts before protocols.

When it comes to building a positive occupational health & safety culture, seeing is believing. So is showing and sharing. That is, to truly engage your employees, you’ll need to see compliance information from the right perspective, show it in a complete picture, and share it in a way that connects with your workforce. As you continue to progress your OHS management to keep pace with today’s regulatory developments, make sure that your culture is in step with what teams need to step (and stay) on board. 

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Peek inside the results from our exclusive 2022 Client Survey for your peers’ take on EHS and sustainability today. Plus, learn what regulatory developments are driving the trends in our latest insights report. 

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