We #StandWithUkraine, find out how to help here.
Last updated: 24.06.20

Ten steps to a life-saving health and safety programme

Guest Blog Article by Karen J. Hewitt

If you’re passionate about workplace Health and Safety, and know that small, everyday behaviours save lives, then you may have a behavioural safety initiative on your radar.

Behavioural Safety, Safety Leadership, HSE (Health, Safety, Environment) Engagement and HSE Culture Change – there are many approaches, and often with similar aims.

Whichever one you choose, remember these two very important things:

  1. Individual behaviours don’t happen in isolation – they are influenced by the environment they occur in, and the behaviours of the people around them
  2. 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, and you can set it up with the following ten steps:

  1. Define the need – what does your current HSE performance look 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?

  3. Establish a benchmark – when you set out to deliver Health and Safety Culture change, you need to know what impact you’ve had, and for that, you need a starting point against which to measure that change. Culture, however, is somewhat intangible, made up of employee perceptions, so 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.

  5. 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.I 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.
  6. Design programme – a programme like this, if it is to be long-term and sustainable, needs to be fully integrated into company processes and procedures, and strategic – with a vision, key objectives, behavioural outcomes and performance indicators all identified up front. 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.


  7. Develop 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, so 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.

  9. Design communications – today’s employees are suffering from corporate initiative overload, and with limited neurological bandwidth, the communications that accompany 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. Most important of all, it will need endorsement from the top.

  11. Communications launch – 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 it (or is that just me?), so use multiple channels and don’t be afraid of repetition.Ensure as many employees as possible know the aims of your programme and how they can get involved.

  13. 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.

  15. Training launch – when you have done steps 7 and 8 well you are nicely set up to launch your training.Now think about who will own the training for different parts of the business and how you will plan schedule and resource it.And if this is a corporate-wide initiative, it is important to cascade it in the right order – in a top-down fashion - since behavioural change starts at the top of the organisation.

  17. Follow-up, measure, 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, now 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 Safety behaviours that will raise the profile of Health and Safety and increase the likelihood that everyone will stay safe.

The change you want won’t happen overnight, and not necessarily be always visible, but know this – a well thought out 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 in the context of Health and Safety.  She is the author of “Employee Confidence – the new rules of Engagement”, finalist in the Leadership category of the Business Book Awards 2019. 

Virtual College are specialists in the design and delivery of global and multi-lingual e-learning solutions to support behavioural and culture change programmes for Health and Safety.  For more information, please email hello@virtual-college.co.uk.