Management's Role in Promoting a Positive Health and Safety Culture

A safe and healthy workplace is more easily achieved when employees at all levels within the organisation have conversations about potential hazards or issues, and work collaboratively to find solutions.

Using their understanding of the organisation and current work practices, employees have a key role in providing input on work hazards and the effectiveness of policies and procedures.

Consultation between employees, WHS Advisors/Practitioners, Officers and Managers on health and safety matters, can lead to safer and healthier workplaces, improved issue or decision ownership, more effective outcomes, greater commitment by everyone to implement decision as well as stronger trust between all levels across the organisation.

What role do Managers have in all of this?

Managers across all levels of seniority, have a vital role in the promotion of a positive health and safety culture in the workplace. Typically, managers are responsible for implementing health and safety objectives for all employees.

Managers directly impact how health and safety is viewed by those they manage and therefore are critical in influencing the organisational health and safety culture. A proactive approach is much more cost effective than a reactive approach.

According to the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), poor management is costing UK employers around £84 billion in lost productivity a year. A poor approach to management results in a lack of direction, support, unclear communication and micro-management. 

It is essential for managers to demonstrate a positive attitude to health and safety to ensure that it cascades downwards to all levels.

Ways managers can influence positive health and safety culture in the workplace:

Managers can help to influence and promote positive approaches to health and safety by leading by example, communicating effectively and engaging with staff, encouraging a learning culture, promoting a “just, no-blame culture”, and tracking and monitoring progress to fight complacency.

We’ve listed a few strategies below to assist managers to promote a positive health and safety culture.

Employee Engagement

Effective communication with employees is key to promote a positive health and safety culture.

Managers that work alongside their staff regularly, encourage open discussions and give timely feedback, will help to improve communication among all levels within the business.

Managers can achieve this by holding health and safety briefings, face-to-face discussions and regular meetings.

  • Some tips to reduce barriers through communication include:
  • Engage employees on an emotional level
  • Clearly communicate messages with concrete examples to assist employees to focus their energies
  • Think about the tone of the communication
  •  Think about what you say as a manager and how you say it
  • All written material should be backed up by verbal communication
  • Keep employees updated on the status of what’s happening.

Taking these steps enable managers to identify any issues that employees are experiencing at an early stage, which helps them to address them in a timely manner.

Active involvement in health and safety empowers your employees to take ownership of health and safety, which is an important step in preventing and controlling workplace hazards. You can also customise some posters, to raise awareness about key workplace health and safety issues here.


Managers communicate the beliefs that underlie an organisation’s policy through individual behaviour and management practices. This is best achieved by acting as facilitators to encourage suggestions and engage with their staff to solve current health and safety challenges. This has a direct effect in motivating employees to uptake a positive health and safety culture.

Promoting a positive health and safety culture

It is recommended that managers take the necessary steps and precautions when an issue or incident occurs in the workplace. Managers need to encourage employees to report incidents without fear of repercussions.

When looking into reported incidents, they should have a solid understanding of the mechanism of human error and the ability to assess the degree of culpability. This assists in identifying the underlying causes, which are typically organisation, systematic or management related and will help to reduce future incidents.

An organisation that puts unjust blame on employees after an incident risks suffering from a culture of lack of reporting.

Tracking Performance

Constant monitoring of health and safety performance can have a major role in leading to a positive health and safety culture. Managers should establish reliable performance indicators that are reflective of the hazards that employees are exposed to. Organisations should look into having a competence assurance program in place to ensure employees have the necessary skills they require to assist them to identify any issues and establish actions for improvements.

To guide and contribute to a stronger health and safety culture, managers should also consider how they can influence and support workers through:

  • being seen by workers at workplace activity locations
  • making your commitment to health and safety visible in the workplace
  • valuing employee’s wellbeing, health and safety as much as productivity and financial outcomes
  •  connecting with your employees to understand the health and safety issues in your workplace
  •  effectively communicating any messages, concerns or issues on health and safety through active listening and consultation
  • making the time to visit employees and hear about their ideas, issues and concerns
  • ensuring that health and safety is included in any team planning, discussions and as a part of the day to day business

It takes time to develop a positive health and safety culture and this culture will continually evolve. That’s why it’s vital for managers to put continuous effort to ensure these changes are positive.

Managers working on improving the above strategies will have a positive influence on their organisation’s health and safety culture.

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This publication is not intended to offer legal advice or client-specific risk management advice. General descriptions contained herein do not include complete definitions, terms, and/or conditions, and should not be relied on for claims management interpretation. Actual claims and risk management policies must always be consulted for full coverage details and analysis.

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