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Building a Strong Safety Culture: Identifying Key Barriers to Success

At the core, people are the center of every strong safety culture. Without people, safety doesn’t happen!

Leaders who are committed to supporting workplace safety understand the critical role their company culture plays in reinforcing safe working habits for employees.

According to the authors of the book, PEOPLE: Dare to Build an Intentional Culture, understanding the overall cultural dynamics of your workplace could help identify barriers to advancing new initiatives or perpetuating existing programs – including building and maintaining a strong safety culture.

Typical barriers that can derail safety including a lack of trust, a climate of fear, leadership that won’t let go or lack of employee involvement. Could your company’s culture be holding your organization back from achieving a strong safety culture?

Culture Quadrant Framework

A good place to start is to identify the current state of your company culture. PEOPLE provides a simple framework that includes four types of cultures:

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safety culture checkup
  • A Command and Control Culture is high in intentional structure but lacks health. Although some scale has been built into the business, it experiences high turnover, trouble with recruiting, poor employee job satisfaction, and/or management that sees people as replaceable parts. Without a consistent process for building relationships, employees feel they are mostly a commodity.
  • An Intentional Culture creates structure around building a strong culture through consistent processes that support hiring, firing, reviewing, rewarding and recognizing employees based on Core Values and job performance. It can be difficult to keep an intentional culture over time, so the company must stay laser focused on all the processes and systems in place to maintain and perpetuate a healthy workplace environment.
  • A Chaotic Culture is neither healthy nor intentional. Although the company might be growing fast, it doesn’t have built-in processes to manage people. Key signs of a Chaotic Culture are gossip, politicking, end-runs, competing priorities, poor quality, missed deadlines, and/or a lack of care and concern for people. The result is a like a game of Whac-A-Mole, where as soon as one issue is solved another immediately pops up!
  • A Happy Accident Culture is healthy but lacks structure. In this culture, the company starts off hiring family and friends who all get along well. Where it gets uncomfortable is when adding new people who might upset what was built. However, without some talent from the outside, that mindset and type of culture will not be able to scale as the company grows.

Does your culture seem to fit into one of these four categories?

Company Culture Checkup 

For a deeper dive, check out the online Culture Checkup to map out where your company culture currently stands. The checkup provides statements in two sections – your company’s level of intentionality and its degree of health.

Simply answer the statements in each section, then tally the number of times you responded “yes” in each section to plot where your company culture currently stands on the Culture Quadrant graphic. The questionnaire literally gives you ideas on how to build a more intentional culture.

Safety Culture Solutions

Creating a strong safety culture requires leadership to put in the time and effort with their teams to find ways of influencing employee attitudes and behaviors, as well as identifying the means of reducing environmental hazards. Specifically, some ideas to consider, include:

  • Ensuring a commitment to safety at all levels of the organization.
  • Incorporating statements related to safety in an organization’s mission, vision, values, goals and objectives.
  • Involving employees in planning and implementing activities and controls that promote a safe workplace.
  • Giving support and visibility to committees that deal with safety.
  • Developing communication and feedback processes to increase safety awareness.
  • Promoting individual accountability.
  • Providing strong safety training.
  • Making available appropriate safety devices and protective equipment.
  • Requiring action plans for integrating safety interventions into the company’s operations.
  • Rewarding and recognizing individual safety performance.
  • Introducing workers to a safety culture during their onboarding.

While building a strong safety culture takes hard work, perseverance and patience, it’s entirely possible with structure, tools and genuine care for people.

Interested in creating an intentional safety culture with a happier, more engaged team? Reach out to Chris Naylor, co-author of Building a Strong Safety Culture: 5 C’s of Safety, CEO & Co-Owner of OECS Workplace Safety Experts, at or 612-802-9137. Happy to help you connect with the right safety resources!