One of the biggest barriers to improving health and safety performance in the workplace can be the existing culture – leaders’ and workers’ attitudes. How an organisation is governed is the key to achieving a positive and improving safety culture, and to do this its leaders need to pay attention to the right things – which can mean anything from what they notice and comment on, to what they measure, control and reward.
Engaging with the workforce directly and having conversations about safety that are structured around listening rather than telling is a great way to lead. It gives the governing body a chance to learn first-hand what is going on and enables them to set an example by demonstrating the governance principles themselves.
If the governing body isn’t in a position to do this, they should ensure that management have good communication with the workforce and that they report back on those discussions.
While initially these conversations may feel forced, and the message may not come off as authentic, by taking the initiative a governing body can build the relationship with their workers so that in future these conversations about safety are natural. It’s a trust thing, so by setting the tone at the top and living by it the message becomes more than just words.
Governing bodies should be engaging with all of their staff to ensure they know what’s going on with the business, why, how and what for. Everyone should be given the opportunity to contribute and should know how they fit in.