KEMI knows that introducing change within an organization can be challenging for several reasons. Adjusting to a new safety program is a necessity to creating a safety culture in the workplace. Effective and lasting change is more likely when senior management commits to adopting safety as a top priority and provides evidence that the change must be made immediately. Change comes about more quickly when a reward structure is created that praises those managers, departments, or employees whose behavior contributes to safety goals. Similarly, immediate and meaningful consequences need to be applied when careless behavior or negligence causes an accident or injury.

Just as every organization has its own unique “culture,” there is no specific set of standards for a safety culture. However, there are some observable characteristics that identify a safety culture.

Employees observe and correct hazards.

In a safety culture, employees feel comfortable to observe and correct hazards. Once a hazard is identified, the correction is made and reported.

Correct personal protective equipment is worn.

In a safety culture, employees always wear the proper protective equipment. Employees should know which PPE to use for which task, how to use the appropriate equipment to do the task, how to keep PPE well-maintained, when to dispose of it and how to dispose of it safely.

The safety committee is respected.

In a safety culture, there is an active safety committee. The committee meetings are scheduled on a regular basis and well-attended. The overall agenda of the committee is clear with goals and performance expectations presented on at least an annual basis. The committee offers regular training in basic safety methods, and also specialized in-service training to deal with safety issues specific to the entity, a department or a program.

There is buy-in from “top to bottom”.

In a safety culture, the process of reporting and correcting safety hazards has been worked within the organization over time. Because individual motivations are different, the process of infusing a safety culture needs to address an array of motivations. Management will want to see the safety culture reduce the cost of insurance, and employees will want to feel safer and less prone to injuries. Employees will want to feel valued for their contributions in terms of identifying and correcting hazards. In determining if you have a safety culture, it is important to have employees at various levels measure activities versus performance on a regular basis.


These examples can be put into practice in virtually any entity. One of the most important ways to successfully embed safety into an entity’s culture is to have a lead person for safety (safety coordinator) with authority to enforce safety standards or look for ways to share responsibility for safety within the organization. Another important factor is the presence of an active safety committee to conduct a periodic reviews and training.

Collaborating with your insurance provider (KEMI if your organization is a current policyholder) is important in reducing the cost of workers’ compensation claims. Being an active partner with your provider will put both your entity and the insurer on the same page. One of the most important components of this partnership is the timely reporting of claims and using online claims management. Insurance providers need to know as soon as possible if there is even the possibility of a claim.

It is important to manage a workers’ compensation claim closely. Stay in touch with those employees who are out on disability and, if possible, institute a flexible return to work or light duty program.

The chief elected official or board needs to include safety as an agenda item at least once a quarter These officials need to know the progress that is being made in establishing a culture of workplace safety. They also need to know how much accidents and injuries are costing the entity on a quarterly and annual basis.

In establishing a safety culture, it is important to document safety violations by means of a standardized form that can reveal patterns of “near misses” and provide clues to potential larger problems. Keeping employees safe begins in the establishment of a safety culture adopted from the “top-down”.

Check out KEMI’s resources on Incident Investigation or a Sample Safety Committee Charter to get started!

KEMI does not assume liability for the content of information contained herein. Safety and health remain your responsibility. This information is to be used for informational purposes only and not intended to be exhaustive or a substitute for proper training, supervision or manufacturers’ instructions/recommendations. KEMI, by publication of this information, does not assume liability for damage or injury arising from reliance upon it. Compliance with this information is not a guarantee or warranty that you will be in conformity with any laws or regulations nor does it ensure the absolute safety of any person, place or object, including, but not limited to, you, your occupation, employees, customers or place of business.