Infographic on 4 stages of a safety culture

What Are the 4 Stages of Building a Safety Culture Average Read Time - 7

Safety Culture – One that is not dependent on individuals. Do you have it? Safety culture is a term most of you would have heard before. However, how many of you can confidently claim to have a sustainable safety culture within your organization? Sustainable, that’s the whole thing. It’s no good having a health and safety program that is dependent on certain individuals working for your organization. If your program is dependent on individuals, once they leave your organization, it will go with them, rest assured!

How should companies view workplace safety?

Workplace safety is of paramount importance in Ontario. The Occupational Health and Safety Act governs the workplace health and safety requirements through various legislations and regulations of the Act. Certain industries such as construction are prone to a higher percentage of risk compared with other industries. Workplaces may differ, activities may differ, and so may the risk of carrying out those activities. The big question here is how should companies be viewing workplace safety? Do they view it as a mandatory requirement as per law? Or do they need to view it as a wonderful opportunity to not only provide a safe workplace to their workers, but also engage with them regularly.

The second approach is the highly desirable one. If an organization succeeds in making safety an integral part of its culture over the long term, it creates a sustainable program, which adds to the brand value. Workplace safety and corporate brand image go hand-in-glove. We all know what happened to British Petroleum’s global brand image after the massive oil-leak tragedy. Therefore, it is of paramount importance to understand and respect the correlation between the company and workplace safety. One of the best ways to ensure brand leadership is by working towards building a sustainable workplace safety culture, which is not dependent on individuals.

Safety Culture – Your Best Way Forward

Even before we start talking about safety culture, let’s try to define safety culture and what it means to an organization. Workplace safety culture can be best defined as one that starts with ‘I’ within the organization and moves along with ‘we’. It’s one where everyone’s responsible for workplace safety. It encourages workers to view health and safety as a core responsibility rather than just a legislative requirement. It involves the use of online systems, tools, and techniques that make the whole workplace operate efficiently with improved productivity.   

That said, don’t expect your organization to embrace a safety culture overnight or within a few months. That’s impractical. It normally takes around 3-5 years for an organization to build a safety culture. Once your organization has embraced a safety culture, it all boils down to your continuous improvement plan and ongoing safety efforts.

As they say, you build your home brick-by-brick, it is no different when it comes to building a safety culture for your organization. It depends largely on where you are in terms of your current program. If you have a good program in place, it will make your life easier to work towards building a safe culture. However, how many organizations can actually claim they have a very strong program? There are very few. In fact, a majority of the organizations will be on the other side of the coin where their program isn’t the best. In such a case, you will have to start building a safety culture from the scratch. Further, you need to be patient since you will only start seeing results from the third year.

Safety Culture – A Scientific Approach

One of the best ways for you to work towards building a safety culture is by adopting the 4-stage model mentioned below. The model is scientific simply because it can be applied to any industry.
Here are the 4 stages:4

Stage 1: Job Safety Analysis (JSA) / Hazard Assessment

Where do we start the process of mitigating OHS risks? The answer is ‘a workplace safety program’. Now, the next big question is where do we start creating the safety program? Do we start with doing “research” on the internet? Do we start with copying a competitor’s manual? Do we go to an HR or Safety website and download a whole pile of procedures, and fill in the blanks without really reading them?

The best way to start is by listing down the types of hazards and risks that are faced by your employees at work. This is what forms the foundation of your workplace safety program. If you do not know the hazards being faced by your employees, you are not going to be able to put in place the types of processes and procedures necessary to protect them.

A job safety analysis (JSA) or hazard assessment is a systematic approach to mitigating OHS risks. In fact, JSA is the foundation of your H&S program. No hazard analysis is going to be able to capture every task and the associated hazards with that task. People will forget everything that they do, or they may change the way they do something because of broken machinery. The point is that your hazard analysis is going to change over time as new tasks are uncovered and new hazards are as well. Therefore, the flow is the most critical part of your analysis, because it will help you to determine the activities that give you the end result, thus allowing you to identify the training, equipment, and procedures that need to be followed. Once you have the job safety analysis (JSA) or hazard assessment, you need to integrate it into your business flow and keep your system up to date.

Some of the key points you need to know for performing a JSA or hazard assessment:

  • Site visits of various locations, inspections of the work area, and how jobs are done. This should be done by assessing the site activities and how tasks are being carried out. Special attention has to be given to the process being followed by employees prior to, during and after the work is done. This includes a physical inspection of the workplace focusing on the behavior of the workers, risk exposures, and conditions in every activity of the job.

  • Identification of task/activity hazards, and the risk assessment probability, and severity of workplace injury and/or illness as it relates to each activity.

  • The Hazard Analysis should be able to determine the ways of mitigating the risk by a combination of personal protective equipment, training, procedures, inspections, and processes. You would have to develop safe operating procedures for all high-risk and critical activities. The Risk Assessment should be able to identify and mitigate the occurrence of Workplace Violence and Sexual Harassment as per Bill 168 and Bill 132.

The results of the JSA or hazard assessment should include:

  • Process flow of the activities.
  • A training matrix that has been developed for each division.
  • List of required safe operating procedures for all critical and high risk tasks.
  • List of all checklists, inspections, and preventative maintenance lists (if applicable).
  • List of all specific emergency procedures.
  • Workplace Violence and Harassment Risk Assessment and means of mitigation (Ontario specific).    

Stage 2: Developing & implementing the health and safety program

This stage would ideally take the results of the Hazard Analysis performed in stage 1 to help you in developing/updating the H&S policy and procedure manuals. The policy manual should be developed/updated to reflect the requirements of the provincial legislation. This stage also involves developing/updating safe operating procedures based on your hazard analysis. 

This is the most crucial stage where the program will be developed and implemented. Therefore, it will be ideal if this stage flows from your hazard assessment. 

Stage 3: Training implementation and planning

It is extremely vital for you as an organization to create a process for gathering, updating, and maintaining your employee training information and records. A strong and effective process will help largely in ensuring that all training and qualifications are up-to-date and valid. This is ever so crucial from an OHS due diligence point of view. Getting your employees and supervisors trained in-class and online on all the required and mandated OHS courses is crucial. That said, it is even more important to have some kind of a system that helps you track these records on a real-time basis, helping you plan your trainings better.

Regular training conducted by a company constantly reinforces the company’s message in the minds of the employees, slowly making it a part of the organizational culture. Technology plays a big role in making the training process seamless, user-friendly, measurable, and efficiently manageable. Companies can use online systems to train their employees, manage their records, and monitor their performance. Technology assists largely in creating customized online training for an organization. Further, it helps in consistently delivering that training to the employees, which reinforces the corporate vision while refreshing the employees’ knowledge. This is achieved cost-effectively without spending too many man-hours (employees or training administration), which adds to productivity as well.

Capturing information is vital for analyzing workplace activities of employees. Information on workplace behavior can be captured through workplace inspection forms, work documents, policy documents, process flow documents, etc. The use of technology makes the whole process of capturing information seamless and efficient. Online systems provide 24X7 access to company information, helping managers constantly monitor employees’ performance and behavior.

Technology helps a company monitor employee activities and performance through dashboards and interactive graphical interfaces to help analyze behavior, which will help in creating a strong workplace safety culture. Online systems have dashboards that show charts, graphs, and diagrams that highlight past trends. They can be used effectively to analyze the efficacy of various activities performed within the organization.

The adoption of technology makes it easier for a company to train and develop its employees over time, which slowly becomes an integral part of the safety culture. There are many options available to you in the market. Some offer physical and some online solutions. If you want to build a strong safety culture within your organization, it is crucial to embrace the power of technology, especially in today’s day and age. Choose your options wisely ensuring that they provide you with holistic solutions and not temporary fixes. You are best advised to choose the tools and options that best fit your organization’s health and safety requirements. In fact, they should help in making the workplace safety process easier for you and your employees to follow. 

Stage 4: Program Monitoring, Mentoring, and Continuous Improvement Plan

Now that you have a program up and running, it is crucial for you to monitor the progress of your program very closely. This is where some online tools can be very effective. They will gather vital information pertaining to incidents, accidents, injuries, and illnesses at your workplace and present it analytically through charts and tables in a user-friendly dashboard.

One of the best ways to monitor your program is by conducting quarterly site visits and quarterly meetings with the management team and other key workplace parties. This will help you ensure that the safety program you have created for your organization meets the regulatory standards of the OHSA for Ontario, and that it is being maintained as per the required standards. Conducting spot audits is another way to ensure that the program is implemented and is being followed.

However, the most important part is to ensure that once all the documents are gathered, organized, and indexed to facilitate the review of your H&S program, they must be presented to the management along with recommendations for gaps found in the program, if any.

How do you plan for the 4 stages?

Whether you want to do this internally through your in-house team or through help from an experienced H&S consultant is completely your call. If your in-house safety team is able to execute this for you, it will be great. However, that is not normally the case in the real world. Many organizations struggle with regards to developing and managing their program, especially the small businesses. This is precisely why the support of an experienced consultant can come in handy. That said, if you want to go with a consultant, choose one who fits your requirements perfectly. They should ideally be able to help you in developing the program, support you with online systems, help you with JSA and SOPs, and become your H&S partner.

How 4S Consulting can help?

4S is an occupational health and safety advisory firm that ensures compliance and protects companies and their employees with a “live” occupational and safety management program. 4S designs and implements an occupational health and safety program customized to your needs and with all required training in accordance with occupational health and safety laws and regulations. But equally important, our online management tool, 4SafeCom™, keeps your OHS program and training requirements current as regulations are updated, and staff and business need change.

With 4S as your health and safety support partner, you will benefit from online/in-class training, consulting services, online systems, and all the tools that you would require to make and manage your program in a sustainable manner. We have more than 18 years of experience in occupational health and safety advisory services. We continuously strive to help our clients to make their workplace safer. We have a local team of 20 full-time employees operating out of our Markham head office. In addition to that, we have a partner and affiliate network associated with us.

4S has developed and implemented health and safety programs, drafted policies & procedures, safety manuals, provided online & in-class training support, workplace inspections support, and other consulting support to 700+ companies across Canada. We have implemented Online Safety Management Systems for more than 700 clients, which help in recording and managing health and safety training records and workplace inspections.

4S has been providing customized safety orientation training, workplace inspection support, and consulting support for a number of clients from various industries such as services, healthcare, retail, industrial, construction, and municipalities. We are hosts to a library of 80+ online training health and safety courses created by 4S, which include the four mandatory trainings in Ontario such as AODA, WHMIS 2015, Basic H&S Awareness, and Workplace Violence & Sexual Harassment. 

4S has been creating online modules (8-12 hours) for GTAA’s Fire and Emergency Training Institute (FESTI) for Fire and Emergency services students. This includes courses on basic training for Airport Emergency Services and General Fire and Emergency Services. 4S has created Ontario Ministry of Labour-approved training for Working at Heights (WAH) and Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC) certification training in Ontario. Further, we also created the Ontario Ministry of Labour-approved online training for the blended portion of WAH and JHSC certification training.

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