Building a safety culture

Article image - Building a safety culture Huon Valley Councilís new WH&S Officer Phil McKenzie.

Huon Valley Council, Tasmania, is undertaking a bold reimagining of the approach that it takes in managing the health and safety of its employees.

As part of this, Council is closely reviewing how it complies with the Work Health and Safety Act 2012, and has further resolved to adopt the international standard for occupational health and safety (ISO 45001:2018).

Council’s newly appointed Work Health and Safety Officer, Phil McKenzie said the organisation was using the latest research around safety culture to take health and safety standards at Huon Valley Council to the next level.

“Essentially, we want to evolve from aiming for basic compliance to a place where we all actively care about our own and our colleague’s health and safety.” 

Safety research has long shown that a strong safety culture is an essential element for organisations which already have a working Work Health and Safety (WHS) management system, but wish to take the next step to improve safety performance even further. 

“For us, safety culture is simply the personal and organisational values and beliefs that we share, and which determine our behaviours at work. 

“We believe that safe outcomes are the result of safe behaviours, which stem from the beliefs and values that we hold. 

“In other words, we are focusing on our organisation’s core beliefs and values as a starting point to develop a safety culture.”

A strong safety culture will reinforce how the Huon Valley Council applies its safety policies and procedures. 

Further, it will enable Council to achieve its potential with safe organisational behaviours, authentic leadership, and fair accountability.

“Our safety culture goals are characterised by achieving five core elements.

“These include delivering timely and accurate safety information, having honest reporting of incidents, having flexibility and resilience in our organisational structures, and importantly having the willingness and ability to learn and improve from the safety information that we obtain.

“We know that above all, the most important feature that we must have in our workplace for our WHS management system to be effective, and for our safety culture to be strong, is trust between the workers and the leaders. 

“So, this is what we are focusing on as a starting point in our safety culture journey.”