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Organisational culture

Why is organisational culture important?

Culture can be best understood as "the way we do things around here". Culture forms the context within which people judge the appropriateness of their behaviour. An organisation's culture will influence human behaviour and human performance at work. Poor safety culture has contributed to many major incidents and personal injuries. 

An organisation's culture can have as big an influence on safety outcomes as the safety management system. 'Safety culture' is a subset of the overall organisational or company culture. Many companies talk about 'safety culture' when referring to the inclination of their employees to comply with rules or act safety or unsafely. However we find that the culture and style of management is even more significant, for example a natural, unconscious bias for production over safety, or a tendency to focus on the short-term and being highly reactive. Success normally comes from good leadership, good worker involvement and good communications.

A Safety Climate survey provides a snapshot of the organisation's culture in relation to safety. Questionnaires designed to measure the culture of the organisation tend to focus on employee perceptions and behaviours. The HSE's Safety Climate Survey Tool is currently being revised, and also a new Process Safety Climate Tool is being developed.

The largest influences on safety culture are:

Therefore, this key topic contains links to three other issues:

Key principles on organisational culture

Further guidance on organisational culture

2014-11-21