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Our Safe365 Safety Culture Maturity Report is the first of its kind to provide the market with a really in-depth analysis of what’s working well and where greater focus could go to significantly move the dial on improving harm reduction outcomes for the workforce. There are some really good takeaways and some positive things that are happening, but equally, there are some clear and obvious vulnerabilities that need to be addressed.

Key insights from the Report:

  • As a profession, we’re meeting our obligations, but beyond that, our maturity towards proactivity is lacking.
  • There is less than a 10% difference in safety culture maturity between small and large organisations on average.
  • Verification and Audit is the most immature area we see in safety culture.
  • Practice Assurance and Control Effectiveness are a profession-wide weakness.
  • We see an average of 17% difference in maturity between SME and Large Enterprise across components of Emergency Preparedness, yet the growing rate of emergency situations affects companies of all sizes.
  • Director and Management knowledge are holding safety culture maturity back.
  • Having effective systems for contractor management safety is the weakest area of personnel safety culture.
  • Health and Safety is still overly reliant on one person, one safety leader and one set of eyes vs a safety team and company-wide capability.

Read our 2024 Safety Culture Maturity Report.

Building people’s capability a key theme

Perhaps one of the most powerful insights from the Report is for business leaders and those people who have the ability to influence entire systems to recognise where the opportunities are to reduce harm. Generally, it’s not in creating more regulations and rules, but focusing on building people’s capability so they can make the right decisions when they’re faced with risk.

As a theme, the Report shows there is currently a strong focus on having a great health and safety management plan with the necessary policies and procedures in place. But we really need to see things move more on the human behaviours side of the equation. If we can help stimulate movement in this area, we can create robust assurance that the great work being done in the health and management systems is actually being reflected in what happens onsite and in workplaces.

Lack of director and management knowledge is putting workers at risk

Nobody is questioning the best intentions of senior leadership, nor are we suggesting indifference, but rather a lack of understanding to enable effective governance, especially at the safety management level.

What we see reflected in the Report is that director and management knowledge of risk management practice and the depth of awareness around their own industry-specific safety landscape is light and needs more development. Brought to life in day-to-day terms, the lack of knowledge among directors weakens their ability to govern effectively. The consequences are lack of focus in the right areas of health and safety, and poor investment choices.

Safe365 Safety Culture Maturity Report 2024

We need more directors and managers to understand safety governance at a deeper level and then ensure that risks are well understood.

The solutions aren’t complex. Directors need to be equipped with the knowledge of which questions to ask management, how to exercise visible leadership and, importantly, possess a willingness to address and solve these problems. Directors and senior management need effective data, including risk assessments, incident reporting, compliance monitoring, and safety audits. Such data can help them better manage workplace risks, track incidents, and ensure regulatory compliance.

It’s imperative that organisations invest in training and developing their directors, senior management, and even safety professionals, to meet modern governance and safety standards. By doing that,  the senior leadership can look beyond compliance requirements and instead strive for excellence in leadership and accountability.

True safety culture goes beyond compliance

On the whole, most businesses simply don’t think about risk in a proactive way because of the regulatory backdrop everyone’s focused on. There’s a prevalent assumption that compliance with health and safety regulations equates to the presence of safety. But, compliance represents the minimal viable threshold and doesn’t necessarily reflect a comprehensive safety picture.

And we see that compliance paradigm reflected in the results of our Report.

On a maturity scale of 100, reactive practices of health and safety management, such as health and safety policies (70%) and incident report (68%) still dominate over proactive factors like internal auditing (37%), emergency stress testing (36%) and ensuring safety practices are implemented (33%).

The current approach towards reward and recognition for proactive behaviours in health and safety is vastly underused, scoring just 38% on a scale of 100.

The Report finds that there is a consistent weakness in the areas of monitoring and assurance, which shows that while organisaitons might ‘check the box’ of having systems and processes in place, most are flying blind when it comes to understanding those systems are operating as intended. This deficiency results in a superficial approach to safety, focused on compliance rather than genuine risk mitigation. It also means we don’t see strong feedback loops and a practice of continual improvement. Stuart Hughes, current President for IOSH, shares his own view on how we might change up the current plan, do, check, act model on his recent blog – Introducing the PELE model. It’s worth a read.

What the Report does is remind us that true safety culture goes beyond compliance and requires a commitment to continuous improvement and excellence in leadership, accountability and organisation-wide engagement in safety outcomes.

Health and safety isn’t a cost to a business, it’s a value creating attribute

What’s interesting is that when you look across the sample of the thousands of organisations represented in the data set, it’s clear there are a lot of upsides to performing better in health, safety and wellbeing, both socially and commercially. Materially reducing the level of harm for their workforce has resulted in business benefits that traditionally sit outside the realm of health and safety, things like a much better loss performance ratio that has resulted in better commercial terms for insurance. What this shows is that if we can optimise harm reduction, other business performance attributes improve drastically.

It’s not just our data that’s showing the link. A longitudinal study published in Safety Science in April this year found safety investment has a favourable impact on financial performance and corporate reputation.

What does good look like?

We know that there is good intent to do health and safety well, but we’ve never had a clear picture of what that actually looks like and the opportunity to assess how our own organisations measure up against that benchmark.

Safe365’s reason for being is to help organisaitons understand their safety maturity and move towards being more proactive around managing risk and reducing harm. As a result, over the last eight years, we’ve accumulated a unique data set from thousands of organisations spanning a range of industries and three geographical locations — New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom — who have looked deeply at their business and delved into a whole range of attributes that can be overlaid to paint a clear picture of the current state of safety culture maturity.

Being able to quantify safety culture maturity at this scale provides data that helps us unlock insights and learnings, and pinpoints the strengths and weaknesses across industries, sectors and countries. So, any organisation looking at the insights in this Report will be able to take something out of it and apply it to their own business. Ultimately, the ability to influence harm reduction comes from businesses themselves having a collective understanding of what good looks like, where the gaps are and a true commitment to filling those gaps so we’re putting the worker at the centre of our thinking.

Read our Safe365 Safety Culture Maturity Report.


Portrait photograph of Nathan Hight, Co-Founder & Executive Director at Safe365About Nathan Hight

Nathan has dedicated over two decades to public and workplace health, safety and wellbeing. Over that time he has advised some of the world’s most recognised brands, helping to elevate standards in health, safety, wellbeing, leadership and culture. He has been the General Manager of Surf Life Saving New Zealand and Surf Life Saving Australia, as well as the Chair of the ACC Drowning Prevention Strategy, Environmental Advisory Committee. In 2016, Nathan and Mark Kidd co-founded 365 Ventures, a technology company focused on shifting companies towards more proactive risk environments and a more effective quantification of the value of health and safety culture.

Follow Nathan on LinkedIn.