Construction site worker using phone for health and safety management

I don’t need to convince you about the importance of workplace safety – or the benefits. Keeping your teams safe at work reduces your lost time, sick leave and rehabilitation costs, and having a core experienced team stay together long-term ensures work is done as efficiently as possible.

Unfortunately, while safety should be everyone’s number one priority, staff can (and do) cut corners.

The safe way can be slow; inefficient; annoying; too much paperwork. Staff can adopt the “this is how we’ve always done it” approach. Sadly, younger staff can also be pressured into this way of thinking in an attempt to fit in with the rest of their team.

So how do we fix this? 

In my decades of experience with global transport and construction businesses, I’ve learnt that it’s always a collaborative approach – rather than anything too authoritative – that gets the best results.

Here are 5 ways to build a positive safety culture in your organisation.

1. Start with a conversation

First off, speak to your team and let them know what your goals are and why.  

Everyone wants to get their work done safely and get home to their family. Highlight that as an organisation you are prioritising safety so that everyone benefits. For employees, risk of injury is reduced, which has a flow on effect for employers in the form of higher productivity and a reduction in LTI-related overheads and insurance premiums.

Go through what you’re doing well and highlight there is always room for improvement. The aim here is to shift the cultural mindset to put safety first. It might help to identify a few ‘influencers’ and get them on board first. A few quick chats can really help down the line.  

Try something like, “Hey mate, I know a lot of the team look up to you. This is what we’re trying to do and why – can we count on your support in driving a positive safety culture?” 

2. Know (and track) your metrics 

Ok, so you know it’s important to be safe – but what is the measure of safety in your workplace? You can motivate your team and more easily track your improvement by breaking the overarching safety task into individual goals for each team.

For example, “Let’s be safer at work” is vague and difficult for a team to achieve. “Stop speeding in the work trucks” is something that they can have some control over.

Not only is it easier to achieve, but it’s also much easier to track. While of course you’ll still want to reduce critical incidents and downtime, breaking it down into smaller tasks will reveal where you need to make some improvements. You can focus on poor-performing teams, try to understand the root cause and implement training, processes or whatever it might be to make them safer and reduce injuries. 

3. Use the carrot, not the stick

Where possible, I try to encourage people with positive rewards rather than fear of punishment; I feel as though you have more success. Most people are at least a little bit competitive in all aspects of life, including work – so gamify your safety!

Introduce competitions, incentives and prizes based on the safety metrics that matter to your organisation. For example:

  • Lowest number of workplace injuries
  • Least amount of incidents and near misses
  • Least speeding offences
  • Best toolbox talks attendance
  • Best safety training attendance

Keep it light-hearted to bring out the best in your team. You could have a leaderboard in the lunchroom, send out regular emails or give an update at Toolbox. Channel your inner football commentator to let everyone know how the competition is progressing.

And make sure the prizes are good! Crappy prizes will just undo your hard work. A competition alone won’t be enough to motivate your whole team. If you want them to be serious about this, you need to be serious too. The cost of a few iPads, for example, is relatively low compared to the cost of a safety incident.


4. Drive team goals, not individual performance

Safety is a team effort – and having team goals drives comradery. Even those who don’t put a high priority on safety will (hopefully) partake and excel so that they don’t let their team down.

Engage your influencers again here. Have one assigned to each team to drive results. Give them a license to take control and motivate their teams. 

“Come on John, we’re really doing well but we need you to lift a bit mate.” 


5. Celebrate success

A positive culture sticks – and that’s what we want here. Celebrate your “Safety Winners”. Present their success to your organisation at a BBQ or some other celebration. Include them in your regular email updates and make a note to mention them at Toolbox.

How has their success positively impacted the team? How will it continue to positively impact the organisation?  Use real numbers to illustrate your point, for example,  “Hey guys, this time last month three more of you were at home injured.”

This is a critical step in the process, where you have the chance to back up what you said you were going to do. Your team has done their part, so be sure to do yours!  


Safety is not a fad. It needs to be part of the DNA of an organisation.  

These tips will help you introduce a safety culture with credibility, but after that it’s up to you to keep it going. The teams will enjoy the competition, a new way of thinking about safety at work and an understanding of the organisation’s commitments. 

What will you do next?

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