March 2016

Hello again,


In last months G&G News Letter I gave you a few pointers on why accidents happen. In this month’s edition I wanted to address the framework for a safety culture that we don’t see much trending in the safety industry. So it begs the question….Why?

Framework for Safety Culture

The organization's culture provides the framework for introducing safety education and safe practices. Organizational culture is NOT something that you can photograph or download from the Internet. However, you can see traces of it, and you can feel it when you enter some workplaces. Here are some clues that you can use to identify your organization's "culture".


Every organization has its own "language" \ terms that are part of what goes on within. These words and ideas also signify the way people are expected to behave in your workplace and with clients. “Customs” can be described as the routines for giving and obtaining service, and “rituals” describe the events that take place such as a monthly safety recognition, training or management rewards for implementing company policies. Or better yet, is safety considered something that is just the site superintendent, labor or safety coordinator’s job?

Being part of a team \ group norms

Group norms describe the ways in which people are expected to work together in groups? What behaviors are OK, what is not OK, and what is completely taboo. Behavioral expectations are some of the key aspects of organizational culture. What types of behavior or approach to safety is expected of you and your staff both in the office, and the field?

Values and beliefs

Is your organization’s mission to reflect the company core values and beliefs? Do treatment of clients, contractors and management staff all reflect these values and beliefs of your organization. If so, then ask yourself…is safety part of your top line budget and are people rewarded in a tangible, visible way for promoting safety and working safely?

Rules of the game

These are the rules that are not written down, but must be understood if a person is to be hired within the organization. These "rules" also indicate what is considered of value within the organization. Are good safety practices among the unwritten rules of your organization or do you just simply comply with OSHA guidelines? 


“Climate” describes the feeling that is conveyed by the physical layout and the way in which members of your staff interact with each other, clients and members of the public. How does the physical layout of your company make a statement about your commitment to safety? Are safety concerns evident in the interaction among employees, tradesmen and site staff. 

The Way Things Are Done \ Patterns of Problem Solving

The ways people are "shown the ropes" of the organization including how problems are identified and solved within the organization illustrate patterns of problem solving. How are newcomers told about commitment to safety? Are new employees briefed on safety procedures? Do they know that there are consequences for ignoring safety practices or engaging in unsafe behavior? Are the consequences enforced?

Introducing change within an organization can be challenging. Effective and lasting change generally comes about when senior management not only commit to adopting safety as a top priority, but at the same time provides compelling evidence that change must be made now. Evidence is usually provided to reflect the amount of money accidents are costing the company or as a potential threat of company reductions due to insurance rate cost. 

Change comes about more quickly when the reward structure is changed to compensate those managers, departments, employees whose behavior contributes to safety goals. Similarly, immediate and meaningful consequences need to be applied when careless behavior or negligence causes an accident or injury. 

Just as every organization has its own unique “culture" there is no specific set of standards for a safety culture. However, there are some observable characteristics that identify a safety culture. 

Employees\Tradesmen observe and correct hazards

In a safety culture, employees and staff members are able to observe and correct hazards. Once a hazard is identified, the correction is made and reported. This level of documentation facilitates an ongoing safety program within the company. 

It starts at the top

In a safety culture, employees and senior management should always “dress for success” by using the appropriate protective gear and equipment when touring any construction site. Management, tradesmen and superintendents should know the basic personal protective equipment required for your site. Furthermore, how to use additional personal protective equipment to do perform a certain task, and how to keep tools and machinery well maintained.

Is there is buy-in from top to bottom?

In a safety culture, the process has been worked within organization over time. Because individual motivations are different, the process of infusing a safety culture needs to address an array of motivations. Management will want to see the safety culture reduce the cost of insurance, and contractor tradesmen will want to feel safer and less prone to injuries. Employees and tradesmen will want to feel valued for their contributions in terms of identifying and correcting hazards. In determining if you have a safety culture, it is important to have staff at various levels measure activities versus performance.

I hope you found this information educational and useful within your organization. Until next time…A good safety culture is built over time, never given.