Fact Sheet

Characteristics of a Safety Culture

Introducing change within an organization can be challenging. Effective and lasting change generally comes about when the board and 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 as the amount of money accidents are costing the nonprofit or as a threat of program reductions.

Change comes about more quickly when the reward structure is changed to compensate those managers, departments, employees and volunteers 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 and volunteers observe and correct hazards

In a safety culture, employees and volunteers 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 nonprofit.

Correct personal protective equipment is worn

In a safety culture, employees and volunteers always "dress for success" by using the appropriate protective gear and equipment. Employees and volunteers know how to use the appropriate equipment to do the task, and how to keep tools and machinery well maintained.

The safety committee is respected

In a safety culture, there is an active safety committee. The committee meetings are scheduled on a regular basis and well-attended. The overall agenda of the committee is clear with goals and performance expectations presented on at least an annual basis. The committee offers regular training in basic safety methods, and also specialized in-service training to deal with safety issues specific to the nonprofit.

There is buy-in from bottom to top

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 employees and volunteers will want to feel safer and less prone to injuries. Employees and volunteers 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.

Characteristics of a Safety Culture Checklist