Negative Indicators Of Health And Safety Culture At Workplace

indicators of a health and safety culture

There are several outputs or indicators of the state of an organization’s health and safety culture. The most important are the number of accidents, near misses, and occupational ill-health cases within the organization. In this blog post, we’ll discuss the positive and negative indicators of health and safety culture.

Although the number of accidents may indicate the health and safety culture, a more detailed examination of accidents and accident statistics is normally required. Calculating the rate of accidents enables health and safety performance to be compared between years and organizations. 

The simplest measure of accident rate is called the incident rate and is defined as: 

Important indicators of a health and safety culture

Or the total number of accidents per 1000 employees. 

The HSE uses a similar measure (per 100 000) in its annual report on national accident statistics. It enables comparisons within an organization between periods when employee numbers may change. It also allows comparisons with the national occupational or industrial group relevant to the organization. 

There are four main problems with this measure that must be borne in mind when used. These are:

  • There may be a considerable variation over a time period in the ratio of part-time to full-time employees; 
  • The measure does not differentiate between major and minor accidents and takes no account of other incidents, such as those involving damage but no injury (although it is possible to calculate an incidence rate for a particular type or cause of the accident); 
  • There may be significant variations in work activity during the periods being compared; 
  • Under-reporting of accidents will affect the accuracy of the data.

Subject to the above limitations, an organization with a high accident incidence rate will likely have a negative or poor health and safety culture.

Your company culture will make or break the success of your safety initiatives. You can create the best policies, procedures, and training programs, but if stakeholders companywide aren’t concerned with creating a safer workplace, it’ll be tough to realize lasting results.

While your executives can positively impact your culture, your management team is ultimately responsible for creating it. The people to whom your workers directly report will have the greatest impact on their attitudes towards (and compliance with) your safety initiatives, and it’s critical that you get them on board.

Positive Safety Culture:

  • Where the majority of the workers think and feel that health and safety are important, and everyone works and behaves safely because they understand the importance of self and others’ safety.
  • There is a strong policy and clear leadership from the top management that passes through the whole organization from top to bottom.
  • Managers think about the health and safety implications of their decisions and workers share the same view and work safely.
  • People who are not behaving safely are in the minority and are likely to either leave because they do not feel that they fit in, or possibly be dismissed for working unsafely.

Also Read: Benefits Of Worker And Employer Involvement In Health & Safety

Negative Safety Culture:

The most important factor affecting the culture is the commitment to health and safety from the top of an organization. This commitment may be shown in many different ways. It needs to have a formal aspect of an organizational structure, job descriptions, and a health and safety policy. Still, it also needs to be apparent during crises or other stressful times. The health and safety procedures may be circumvented or forgotten when production or other performance targets are threatened.

Structural reorganization or changes in market conditions will produce feelings of uncertainty among the workforce, which, in turn, will affect the health and safety culture. Poor levels of supervision, health and safety information, and training are very significant factors in reducing health and safety awareness and, therefore, the culture.

Finally, consultation and involvement with the workforce in health and safety matters is crucial for a positive health and safety culture. Most of these factors may be summed up as human factors.

There are other indications of a poor health and safety culture or climate. These include:

  • A high sickness, ill-health, and absentee rate among the workforce; 
  • The perception of a blame culture; 
  • High staff turnover leading to a loss of momentum in making health and safety improvements; 
  • No resources (in terms of budget, people, or facilities) made available for the effective management of health and safety; 
  • A lack of compliance with relevant health and safety law and the safety rules and procedures of the organization; 
  • Poor selection procedures and management of contractors; 
  • Poor levels of communication, cooperation, and control; 
  • A weak health and safety management structure; 
  • Either a lack or poor levels of health and safety competence; 
  • High insurance premiums. 
  • Where the majority of workers think and feel that health and safety are not important and behave unsafely, often because they do not know any better.
  • They are poorly educated in health and safety and see it as unnecessary or unimportant.
  • There is a lack of clear direction and leadership from senior management.
  • Managers do not think about health and safety in their decision-making and so let other priorities dictate their actions.
  • Safety-conscious workers are in the minority and they may leave because they do not like the organizational culture and feel unsafe in the work situation.

Also Read: Benefits Of A Formal Health And Safety Management System

Negative impact factors on health and safety culture

Invisible leadership from management, Not demonstrating management commitment to health and safety, It meant management discussing the safety matter seriously in the conference room but not demonstrating actual in the field, the existence of blame culture

Lower priority to health and safety than other business issues, frequent changes in organization or poorly communicated changes make uncertainty, etc are some examples of factors creating a negative safety culture in the organization.

Safety performance may indicate an organization’s positive/ negative safety culture. Less or No accidents & less ill-health indicates people are working safely and organizations have a direct influence on worker behavior ie. positive culture whereas lack of attention to health and safety, Low standards, poor behavior, and accidents may indicate negative culture.

Indicators to assess safety culture

Indicators to assess safety culture

Below are some examples of intangible factors that have a negative impact on health and safety culture.

  • Lack of leadership from management.
  • Presence of a blame culture.
  • Lack of management commitment to safety, e.g. saying one thing in the conference room and doing another.
  • Health and safety receive lower priority compared to other business concerns.
  • Organizational frequent changes/ uncertainty.
  • More staff turnover rates.
  • Lack of resources
  • Lack of worker participation and consultation.
  • Interpersonal issues
  • Poor management systems and procedures.
  • External influences include poor ergonomics

Accident record: Accident frequency rate and severity rate — Compare with past years’ data or with similar types of industries

Staff turnover: Low staff turnover may indicate a good safety culture, while high staff turnover may indicate a negative safety culture.


An organisation’s safety culture can be improved only by demonstrating clear commitment by management with visible leadership.

The key to implementing positive safety culture is the involvement and cooperation of workers. Another way to create positive safety culture is Health and safety empowerment. But if it is not dealt with properly, workers may come to resent instructions imposed from above and actively oppose safety initiatives and improvements. This creates a negative culture. The most effective way to avoid this negativity and to actively encourage worker interest and ownership is to involve workers in the decision-making process, which is best achieved through worker consultation.

About Badar Javed

I have worked in the safety industry for more than 10 years, collaborating with different organizations to establish and supervise safety protocols. My expertise covers a broad spectrum, from construction sites to oil refineries, and I have personally witnessed how safety measures safeguard both employees and customers.

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