August 30

5 Signs that Your Safety Culture Is Fraying at the Edges

How healthy is your business’s safety culture? No doubt you are aware of the costs, both apparent and hidden, associated with an unsafe working environment, and so you have used safety training to build a safety culture in your business. An organisational culture is like that potted plant in the corner of your office. Give it enough water and sunlight and it will flourish. Do the opposite and it won’t look so happy.

Like the potted plant, your business’s safety culture needs to be taken care of. You need to be looking for signs that your safety culture isn’t doing so well. Here are five tell tale signs that it’s time for refresher training to get your team back on message.

1. The Lunchroom Sink is Filled with Dirty Dishes

Besides the restrooms, the lunchroom is one of the few communal spaces in a workplace. Colleagues share food preparation areas, fridges, and appliances like kettles, microwave ovens and jaffle makers. The expectation is that workers who use the lunchroom will maintain it by wiping down surfaces, washing up coffee cups and plates, and putting the milk away after they’re done. Picking after yourself, shows that you are considerate of others well-being. A sink full of dirty dishes signals the opposite, and if the lunchroom is a mess, expect the back rooms and workshops to look the same way. A smelly dishcloth may be an annoyance, but an oily cloth in a workshop could start a fire. Leaving the milk out to go sour is a waste, but not putting tools and equipment back properly creates dangerous trip hazards.

2. There are Desks Buried Under Clutter

Cubicle jockeys will often counter observations that their cluttered workspaces have turned into pig sties with bumper-sticker wisdoms like “a cluttered desk is a sign of genius.” Meh, not so much. A messy desk is just a sign of a messy mind, and cavalier attitude to the health and safety of others. Some workplaces can accommodate messy minds without them ever causing a problem, but in an environment where strict organization and following procedure is key to ensuring safety, a messy-minded worker can be a liability.

3. Everyone Could Do with a Good Spit and Polish

Look around at your team. Do your female team members have their hair pulled back? Are your male team members cleanly shaven or are they sporting five o’clock shadow at 10 o’clock in the morning? Have their clothes been pressed? Are their shoes polished? Little things for sure, but these appearance issues can speak volumes about your team’s attitudes towards workplace safety. If they’re taking liberties with their personal appearance, it means that they are also being lackadaisical when it comes to wearing PPE. Loose fitting clothing could get caught in machinery. The same goes for long hair. Know that a drop in appearance standards is indicative of a drop in safety standards.

4. There’s A Whole Lot of “Siloing” Going On

A very small business rarely suffers from organizational siloing, but as a business grows and different departments and sectors develop within the business, these units can start to put their own departmental interests ahead of the business’s interests. These dysfunctional units start doing things their own way. They choose to ignore directives from HR regarding safety, like the requirement to perform monthly workplace safety inspections. In worst case scenarios, siloed departments no longer identify with the business’s mission, and so work contrary to its safety goals.

5. The Pronouns Used Have Switched From “Us” to “Them”

Next time you’re in a meeting, in the lunchroom grabbing a Coke from the vending machine, or walking the shop floor, listen to the pronouns that are being used. A pronoun “us”, when used to describe the business, means the speaker sees themselves as part of the business. If a speaker uses the pronoun “them” when referring to management or members of another department, then the speaker no longer identifies with the business and its goals. This switch from using “us” to “them” is an indicator of low morale. From a safety aspect, the worker sees “them”, management, being solely responsible for worker safety. This is a dangerous attitude to have.


Regardless of size, no business should allow their safety culture to unravel to the point whereby complacency starts setting in. A characteristic of a vibrant culture is the rehearsing of knowledge. A healthy safety culture is no different. By employing a cloud-based learning management system, whereby safety training can be accessed anywhere at anytime, a business ensures that everyone of its team members has safety knowledge at their fingertips. Regular safety training ensures that safety is always kept front of mind.

If you would like to learn more how you can support your safety culture through training, consider subscribing to the OTrain email newsletter. OTrain creates virtual training rooms. These are a cost-effective way of delivering comprehensive health and safety training to your team. If you would like to see an OTrain virtual training room in cation,sign up for a demo!

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