Fact Sheet

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 the nonprofit. 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 on a regular basis, such as an annual volunteer recognition event, a fundraiser or a board retreat. Is "safety" part of the language of your nonprofit? Or is safety considered something that is just the cleaning crew's, building engineer's 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 is expected in the realm of safety?

Values and beliefs

An organization's mission reflects the nonprofit's core values and beliefs. Treatment of clients, community outreach and the stewardship of resources all reflect these values and beliefs. Is safety part of your nonprofit's value structure? 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 get along in the organization. These "rules" also indicate what is considered of value within the organization. Are good safety practices among the unwritten rules of your nonprofit?


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

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 the nonprofit's 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?

Framework for Safety Culture Checklist

Characteristics of a Safety Culture