As the old adage goes: “Prevention is better than cure”. This is especially true when it comes to occupational health and safety (OHS). A solid OHS system – a system that is guided by best practice, driven by compliance and supported by fit-for-purpose Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – is the cornerstone of a productive and profitable workplace.
Another important element, however, and one that is often overlooked is culture. That is having a well-established and universally accepted culture of workplace health and safety. On 28 April the International Labor Organization (ILO) commemorates World Day for Safety and Health at Work 2022, an event aimed at promoting dialogue to create safe and healthy working environments. This year, the ILO’s focus is on the topic of participation and social dialogue in creating a positive safety and health culture.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the critical importance of strong OHS systems to protect working environments and safeguard the health and safety of workers. This is made possible by meaningful participation of and dialogue between multiple stakeholders, representing both the private and public sector.
According to the ILO, “a strong OHS culture is one in which the right to a safe and healthy working environment is valued and promoted by both management and workers. A positive OHS culture is built on inclusion, through the meaningful involvement of all parties in the ongoing improvement of safety and health at work. In a workplace with a strong OHS culture, workers feel comfortable raising concerns about possible OHS risks or hazards in the workplace and management is proactive in collaborating with workers to find appropriate, effective and sustainable solutions.”
South Africa recently celebrated Human Rights Day, which reminded us of the many rights and freedoms that we enjoy under our country’s Constitution. Whilst a safe and healthy working environment is the right of every worker, it also needs to be supported by an organization-wide culture and mindset at every level.
Here are five tips for establishing positive health and safety cultures:
Establishing any organizational culture is a collective and ongoing effort and one that requires the right elements. As we commemorate World Day for Safety and Health at Work 2022, consider whether you have all the right elements in place in your organization: buy-in from the top, open channels of communication, compliant OHS systems, adequate PPE and worker training.
Let’s act together to build positive workplace safety and health cultures – regardless of industry or company size.