What is Your Business HSE Culture?

By Chinedu Anyawu

Why Small and Medium Businesses Need Quality Management Systems

Every business has an HSE culture, and the HSE culture at work is important. Your business’s HSE performance relies on this culture. There are two types of HSE culture, but how do you know if your HSE culture is negative or positive?

What can you do to correct a negative HSE culture?

The HSE culture of your business often reflects on your business’s HSE performance. Therefore, if you want good health and safety performance, you need to have a positive HSE culture. A positive HSE culture requires active HSE involvement at every level of your business. The benefits of a positive HSE culture cannot be overemphasized.

If you’re having problems integrating HSE into your business, your business is likely suffering from a negative HSE culture. The fact is that culture is the combination of the attitudes and values of the people working for and with you, so it’s not always easy to identify the problems. There are several things that destroy or impact your HSE culture. Let us look at some signs of a negative health, safety, and environmental culture within your business.

  1. Lack of interest in health, safety, and environmental issues

If your employees or colleagues have no interest in staying safe and healthy or show no concern about their environment, then there’s a problem. If your team has no interest in HSE, finds HSE subjects boring, or doesn’t care to engage in HSE discussions, this is a clear indication of a negative HSE culture.

A positive HSE culture needs the involvement of everyone who is always excited to discuss opportunities to improve HSE.

  1. Refusal or failure to invest in HSE.

As the saying goes, “Put your money where your mouth is.” The HSE is an investment. A place where there is a negative HSE culture views HSE as an expense rather than an investment. To get a return on any investment, you do need to invest in it in the first place. In the long term, by improving your business’s HSE performance, your overall costs will be reduced. saving you the costs associated with accidents such as hospital bills, downtime, man-hour loss, fines, training, compensations, replacements, loss of productivity, cost of investigations, increased insurance costs, cost to redeem a battered company’s image, etc.

Having no HSE budget means that you are not interested in the return on investment, and that’s a bad sign.

  1. A powerless or absent HSE management structure and system

A strong top management commitment that demonstrates strong HSE leadership is the foundation and driving force behind a positive HSE culture. A sound HSE culture doesn’t just happen overnight; it is planned and built. by first appointing people responsible for driving it and determining how it will be driven. Most successful businesses use internationally accepted HSE management systems. A business without a HSE structure and management will not grow HSE wise and that is a clear indication of a negative culture.

  1. Failure to provide resources

HSE doesn’t just need financial resources, as earlier discussed in number 2. Businesses also need to invest some time, materials, and the right people. Performing HSE activities can be tasking and time-consuming and competent people and materials are needed to do it. If there are no resources available to put in place the structure, controls, and systems needed to improve health and safety, improvements won’t be made, and the HSE culture will erode.

  1. Lack of or poor communication

A business where HSE is not talked about is already a red flag. Communication is critical to maintaining a positive HSE culture. From sharing important information on rules and procedures that have been put in place, to placing warning signs and caution, gathering feedback or collecting ideas on how to make things safer, or getting details of an incident so as to complete an investigation and prevent a recurrence.

A positive HSE culture relies heavily on communication, which flows in all directions from top to bottom, bottom to top, etc. In fact, communication is a basic requirement for most internationally accepted HSE management systems.

  1. Failure to comply with the rules

A business that is not complying with your statutory HSE requirements is already exhibiting signs of a negative HSE culture and has set itself up for impending disaster. Imagine the consequences, accidents, enforcement action by regulatory bodies, compensations, litigation, and fines.

These can be avoided by putting in place a system to monitor and comply accordingly, but a business with a negative HSE culture will ignore them or only remember them when issues arise.

Another area where compliance fails in a negative HSE culture workplace is the disregard for safe working systems and procedures when people have to be forced to obey HSE rules, That is a negative HSE sign. Sometimes this is because rules haven’t been communicated clearly or are misunderstood. Or perhaps the rules are confusing or too complex. Sometimes it may be as a result of unsuitable or inadequate supervision. or the placement of other business needs and deadlines above HSE compliance.

  1. Increased HSE incident rates

An increase in incident rates is a warning sign of a negative HSE culture. When an HSE culture is positive, no workplace should be unsafe, even in high-risk industries.

Hence, if you begin to notice a lot of incidents, even if they are minor, your business’ HSE culture needs reassessment and addressing. You may have to do a root cause analysis to find out why, but more often it is discovered that incident rates point to a breakdown of HSE culture or the absence of it.

  1. Increased frequency of sickness and ill-health

Just like incident rates, increased cases of workplace sickness and ill health could be the result of a breakdown in your HSE culture and an indication that a mixture of health, safety, and environmental issues need addressing.

Increased sickness or ill health can be a result of a lack of compliance with HSE procedures, rules, or regulations. for instance, failure to use or use correctly provided personal protection equipment (PPEs), a lack of suitable control measures, a violation of public health rules, or a lack of training.

High levels of absenteeism due to sickness and ill health are very costly to any business due to loss of productivity, replacement or temporary staff, cost of treatment, and in some cases, compensation. If your employees are calling in sick, it may be time to reevaluate and seek ways to restore, reinforce, or develop a positive HSE culture.

  1. Failure to report unsafe acts and conditions

Identifying and reporting unsafe acts and unsafe conditions can help your business prevent accidents before they happen.

In a place with a negative HSE culture, several unsafe acts, unsafe conditions, and near misses will occur. Most likely, it will happen and go unreported.  When this happens, the business loses the opportunity to fix things before more serious things go wrong. The problem is closely related to the lack of leadership, communication, and resources, which often erodes the confidence that if anything is reported, nothing will be done. Employees often assume there is no point in reporting.

  1. HSE Competence Gap

To have a positive HSE culture, adequate and relevant HSE training must be provided at each level of the business. Business owners, managers, and supervisors all need training on the relevant HSE topics that affect them.

HSE employees also need the training to understand the rules they need to encourage and enforce and the relevant HSE objectives and targets they need to achieve.

The summary is that every member of the workforce needs suitable HSE training to keep them aware of the risks they face and the things they need to do to stay safe.

The fact remains that when people lack relevant HSE competence, the HSE culture can completely collapse, and when training is few and far between, that can indicate a negative HSE culture.

A negative HSE culture can cost a business a lot, and most businesses don’t recover from the damage.

An HSE professional can help you access the HSE culture of your organization or business and help you improve.

Chinedu Anyanwu is a QHSE expert with over 15 years in the industry. He is a co-founder of Safebach company limited, a QHSE company that helps businesses manage QHSE and sustainability-related issues ranging from management system certification, cleaning services using international standards, Training, and lots more. He is married and spends his spare time teaching teenagers and playing with his kids.
Contact him on 08120026947, safebachnigltd@gmail.com


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