Last updated: 21.06.23

Ten Steps to a Life-Saving Health and Safety Programme

Ten Steps to a Life-Saving Health and Safety Programme

This is a guest blog article that was written by Karen J. Hewitt in 2020.

If you’re passionate about workplace Health and Safety, you’ll know that small, everyday behaviours save lives. One of the best ways to encourage and implement this behaviour in the workplace is to introduce a behavioural safety initiative, also known as a health and safety program.

Health and safety programmes at work are a series of processes and protocols that dictate behaviour in the workplace to ensure that all employees are kept safe. It’s up to everyone at work to follow the instructions implemented by this program for it to work effectively.

In this article, we explain what a corporate health and safety program is and our guest writer Karen J. Hewitt describes the ten steps to develop a life-saving health and safety program.

What Is a Health and Safety Program?

A workplace health and safety program is an initiative that is introduced as a way to keep all employees safe and well whilst they are at work. It aims to minimise risks in the workplace and maintain high standards of safe behaviour so that employees are all acting in a way that keeps themselves and others from being at a high risk of harm.

Elements of a health and safety program often include a workplace health and safety policy, a workplace risk assessment, official internal processes or procedures, and health and safety training. Developing a health and safety program at work is often the responsibility of the employer, but if a company has health and safety representatives or ambassadors then they might take charge of this instead.

How to Implement a Workplace Health and Safety Programme

Behavioural Safety, Safety Leadership, HSE (Health, Safety, Environment) Engagement and HSE Culture Change are many approaches to workplace health and safety, and often with similar aims.

Whichever one you choose when you’re developing a health and safety program, remember these two very important things:

  •  Individual behaviours don’t happen in isolation – they are influenced by the environment they occur in, and the behaviours of the people around them
  • Behaviours at one level in an organisation are influenced by the behaviours of those in the level above them, and by the individual’s perceptions of the organisation’s priorities

For these two reasons, only an organisation-wide approach to behavioural safety will deliver sustainable change to health and safety in the workplace. You can set it up by adhering to the following ten steps.

  • Define the Need

The first step in creating a corporate health and safety program is asking yourself what your current HSE performance looks like. What incidents, and behaviours are typical, and what behaviours do you want to see instead? How do these behaviours vary at different levels of the organisation?

This will help you to identify the areas that really need to be focused on to improve and maintain workplace health and safety and give you a focus for your program.

  •  Establish a Benchmark 

When you set out to deliver health and safety culture change, you need to know what impact you’ve had. For that, you need a starting point against which to measure that change. 

Workplace culture, however, is somewhat intangible, often made up of employee perceptions. You will need some kind of survey with questions that measure these perceptions, as well as the key drivers of a strong Health and Safety culture.

  •  Pre-engage

The success of any Health and Safety initiative will be won or lost on the extent to which you pre-engage with the right people. We say pre-engage, because a corporate health and safety programme is an exercise in engagement in itself. 

Make sure you talk to people at all levels of the organisation and across all business areas, gathering the information you need to customise your programme and gaining that all-important buy-in because you’ve listened to their views. Your pre-engagers will become your biggest advocates, so it’s very important to do this work as a way of laying the foundations of a successful health and safety program.

  • Design the Programme 

If a programme like this is to be long-term and sustainable, it needs to be fully integrated into company processes and procedures. It also needs to be strategic – with a vision, key objectives, behavioural outcomes and performance indicators all identified upfront. 

You need to map out exactly what you aim to do, over what time period and with what resources, along with a defined curriculum for each target audience.

  • Develop the Programme

Once your programme has been designed, tested and approved, it’s time to develop your training packages, accompanying collateral and toolkits. 

With a programme designed to change behaviours, face-to-face training is essential but takes time to cascade out. Consider e-learning as a fast and cost-effective way to get the basics out to the whole company quickly, in multiple languages, and as a preamble to the main training.

  • Design Programme Communications

Today’s employees are suffering from corporate initiative overload, and with limited neurological bandwidth, the communications accompanying your new HSE Culture Change programme will need to be carefully considered. It will need a strong name and identity and powerful messages with emotional, as well as logical pull.

  • Launch Programme Communications 

If you want your programme to have maximum impact, make sure it doesn’t get lost in other corporate news and uses channels that reach and engage the highest number of employees. Remember that most people need to hear things six times before they remember them, so use multiple channels and don’t be afraid of repetition.

Use this communication to ensure as many employees as possible know the aims of your programme and how they can get involved. Having a strong start to the programme launch will make it more likely to be successful for longer.

  • Train the Trainer

If your programme does have a training element, consider how you will roll it out, who will deliver it, how many trainers you will need, what training you need to give them and who will do it. In large organisations, this can seem like quite a daunting task, but having in-house trainers drastically increases ownership and hence the success of your programme.

  • Training Launch 

When you have done steps 7 and 8 well, you are nicely set up to launch your workplace health and safety training. Next, think about who will own the training for different parts of the business and how you will plan, schedule and resource it.

If this is a corporate-wide initiative, it is important to introduce it in the right order – in a top-down fashion - since behavioural change starts at the top of the organisation.

  •  Follow-up, Measure, and Refresh 

Steps 1-9 will stand you in good stead for a successful HSE culture change programme, with strong take-up from all parts of your company. If you haven’t already, the final step in the process is to identify mechanisms to follow up on the training, measure its impact and refresh it on an ongoing basis. This will ensure the longevity of your programme and the continual strengthening of your HSE Culture.


So there you have it: a ten-step process for getting a well-thought-out HSE Culture Change programme off the ground, as a vehicle to getting Health and Safety front and centre in your organisation. Treat it like a precious garden – pick good quality seeds, plant them in the right place, give them time to take root, and water them regularly. And never be averse to planting new seeds if you need to.

When you do this, you’ll create Health and Safety Leaders all over your business, and start to see the kind of positive and proactive behaviours that will raise the profile of Health and Safety at work and increase the likelihood that everyone will stay safe. The change you want won’t happen overnight, and not necessarily be always visible, but a successful HSE Culture Change programme will build a Health and Safety Culture that keeps people safe, even if you can’t always see it.

And you can be sure you’re saving lives every day!

Karen J. Hewitt designs and delivers bespoke Engagement, Leadership and Culture Change programmes focused on workplace health and safety. She is the author of “Employee Confidence – the new rules of Engagement” and a finalist in the Leadership category of the Business Book Awards 2019. 

Virtual College is a specialist in designing and delivering global and multilingual e-learning solutions to support behavioural and culture change programmes for Health and Safety. You can take a look at our range of health and safety training courses here.