Management's Role in Promoting a Positive Health and Safety Culture

A safe and healthy workplace is more easily achieved when employees at all levels within the organisation have conversations about potential hazards or issues, and work collaboratively to find solutions.

Using their understanding of the organisation and current work practices, employees have a key role in providing input on work hazards and the effectiveness of policies and procedures.

Consultation between employees, WHS Advisors/Practitioners, Officers and Managers on health and safety matters, can lead to safer and healthier workplaces, improved issue or decision ownership, more effective outcomes, greater commitment by everyone to implement decision as well as stronger trust between all levels across the organisation.

What role do Managers have in all of this?

Managers across all levels of seniority, have a vital role in the promotion of a positive health and safety culture in the workplace. 

According to figures released by Leading Teams, the cost of poor workplace culture and leadership to the New Zealand business sector is more than $2.6 billion a year. This is because a poor and reactive management approach results in a lack of direction, support, unclear communication and micro-management. 

It is essential for managers to demonstrate a positive attitude to health and safety to ensure that it cascades downwards to all levels.

Ways managers can influence positive health and safety culture in the workplace:

Managers can help to influence and promote positive approaches to health and safety by leading by example, communicating effectively and engaging with staff, encouraging a learning culture, promoting a “just, no-blame culture”, and tracking and monitoring progress to fight complacency.

We’ve listed a few strategies below to assist managers to promote a positive health and safety culture:

Employee engagement 

Effective communication with employees is key to promote a positive health and safety culture.

Managers that work alongside their staff regularly, encourage open discussions and give timely feedback, will help to improve communication among all levels within the business. This cam be achieved through holding health and safety briefings, face-to-face discussions and regular meetings. 

Active involvement in health and safety empowers your employees to take ownership of health and safety, which is an important step in preventing and controlling workplace hazards. You can also customise some posters, to raise awareness about key workplace health and safety issues here.


Managers communicate the beliefs that underlie an organisation’s policy through individual behaviour and management practices. This is best achieved by acting as facilitators to encourage suggestions and engage with their staff to solve current health and safety challenges. This has a direct effect in motivating employees to uptake a positive health and safety culture.

Promote a Positive Health and Safety Culture

It is recommended that managers take the necessary steps and precautions when an issue or incident occurs in the workplace. Managers need to encourage employees to report incidents without fear of repercussions.

When looking into reported incidents, they should have a solid understanding of the mechanism of human error and the ability to assess the degree of culpability. This assists in identifying the underlying causes, which are typically organisation, systematic or management related and will help to reduce future incidents.

Tracking Performance 

Constant monitoring of health and safety performance can have a major role in leading to a positive health and safety culture. Managers should establish reliable performance indicators that are reflective of the hazards that employees are exposed to. Organisations should look into having a competence assurance program in place to ensure employees have the necessary skills they require to assist them to identify any issues and establish actions for improvements.

It takes time to develop a positive health and safety culture and this culture will continually evolve. That’s why it’s vital for managers to put continuous effort to ensure these changes are positive.

Managers working on improving the above strategies will have a positive influence on their organisation’s health and safety culture.

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This publication is not intended to offer legal advice or client-specific risk management advice. General descriptions contained herein do not include complete definitions, terms, and/or conditions, and should not be relied on for claims management interpretation. Actual claims and risk management policies must always be consulted for full coverage details and analysis.

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