Executive opinion - June 21

15 June 2021

The Health and Safety Executive gives an insight to managing safety culture and the safety climate tool.

‘SAFETY CULTURE’ can be defined as, “the product of individual and group values, attitudes, perceptions, competencies, and patterns of behaviour that determine commitment to, and the style and proficiency of, an organisation’s health and safety management.”

Put another way it’s “the way things are done around here”. It’s a combination of all the attitudes, beliefs, values, peer pressure and perceptions that your organisation or subsections of your organisation hold, that influence how something is actually done where you work, rather than how it should be done.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has been at the forefront of understanding organisational safety culture and its impact on business performance for many years. Understanding safety culture is part of the journey towards improving organisational reliability and performance. Organisations have responsibilities for the management of their risks, and to ensure adequate and appropriate risk mitigation. HSE help employers to measure and improve their safety culture through the application of evidence-based approaches and effective behavioural change programmes. HSE has also developed a tool that has been designed by scientists to assess the attitudes and perceptions of individuals within an organisation towards health and safety issues.

From the outset, all organisations must be realistic - culture change happens slowly and changing the attitudes and behaviours that influence your safety culture takes effort, commitment, resource and, most importantly, time. Rather than becoming overwhelmed by what might first appear to be a monumental task, it is helpful to look at the wider process and break down what you are trying to do into more manageable steps:

  1. Foundation – securing senior management commitment and allocating resource.
  2. Analyse – create a survey using the HSE Safety Climate Tool to gather data.
  3. Focus – analyse the Safety Climate Tool data to highlight focus areas.
  4. Act – using the data collected make evidence-based decisions that will improve safety performance.
  5. Evaluate – continually monitor performance and evaluate what impact the changes are having.

You can see clearly here how The Safety Climate Tool can be used in the process. Using a simple, online questionnaire, the tool explores employees’ attitudes and perceptions in key areas of health and safety, while guaranteeing anonymity. Once the survey has been completed, it generates a comprehensive report and provides guidance and advisable next steps that will help improve the organisation’s safety culture. 

The Safety Climate Tool can be used as a leading indicator, as evidence shows that a strong safety culture is associated with fewer workplace near-misses and injuries. The data it provides can be segmented in a range of different ways to identify good practice as well as areas for improvement, such as location or hierarchy. 

Furthermore, using the SCT supports the journey to ISO45001 accreditation as it enhances your evidence base. While ISO 45001 is not a legal requirement, proportionate adoption of a health and safety management system standard like ISO 45001 can help businesses measure and evaluate their performance.

A customer of the SCT recently stated,“We decided it was time to start a structured safety culture journey. The SCT aligns well with our core values and integrated management systems, particularly regarding continual improvement. Being able to quantify our people’s perceptions across the eight factors has been invaluable as a ‘snapshot’ of where we are and will be the main tool, we use in measuring our progress. When combined with responses to the open questions, we have been able to build up a reliable picture of our safety climate.”

Not only does the SCT help you understand your own safety culture, but HSE’s extensive benchmarking dataset allows you to compare performance against industry standard for industries such as:

  • Construction
  • Education
  • Energy (electric, oil, gas, fuel and renewable)
  • Manufacturing
  • Maritime
  • Pharmaceutical
  • Rail and more.

Benchmarking is an excellent way to measure performance and position the organisation. This information can then be used to identify gaps within an organisation’s processes to achieve a competitive advantage. The comparison of your organisation’s scores against industry data can identify performance gaps and focus areas. This comparison can help to obtain support from the executive leadership team to drive change and deliver improvements.

HSE deliver free to register webinars on managing safety culture and demonstrate the Safety Climate Tool on a regular basis with their publishing partner, The Stationery Office (TSO). Visit the HSE Books website or get in touch to read more or register your place:

For more information, visit