What are ‘organisational factors’ and how to they affect health and safety?

Human Factors

Organisational factors are part of the broader topic of ‘human factors, which the HSE defines as…

the influence of environmental, organisational, and job factors, along with human characteristics, on workplace behaviour, which can impact health and safety.

To simplify, consider three aspects:

  1. the organisation,
  2. the job, and
  3. the individual

and how they affect people’s health and safety behaviour.

The individual and the job create a risk interface. The job occurs within the organisational culture, which often has the most significant influence on workplace behaviour.

This article will focus on organisational factors, while job and individual factors are discussed here and here.

Organisational Factors

Organisational factors influence individual and group behaviour most, yet they often get overlooked in work design and accident investigations. Several key organisational factors associated with good safety performance are:

  1. Leadership: Essential for a positive health and safety culture, as it drives motivation and concern for health and safety. It’s reflected in allocating resources and support for health and safety management and senior management’s active involvement.
  2. Management Style: A ‘humanistic’ management approach is likely to be effective, showing care and concern for individuals’ personal and work issues. Swift action to address problems is vital.
  3. Visible Management: Crucial for a healthy safety culture. Effective managers regularly engage with the workforce about health and safety, fostering a belief in the commitment of all managers.
  4. Effective Communication: A high level of communication within the organisation, both formally and informally, is vital. Encouraging questions about health and safety in everyday work conversations stems from promoting personal responsibility.
  5. Learning Organisation: Continuous improvement and learning from mistakes is a hallmark of a positive culture.
  6. External Pressures: Consider pressures from external sources, such as financial stability and regulatory bodies.
  7. Committed Resources: Show commitment through allocating time, money, and staff to health and safety.
  8. Participation: Encourage employees at all levels to identify hazards, suggest control measures, provide feedback, and feel ownership of safety procedures.
  9. Balance Productivity and Safety: Maintain a proper balance between production and health and safety to prevent shortcuts and distractions.
  10. High-Quality Training: Ensure well-managed, high-quality training with the right content.
  11. Work Environment: Maintain a clean and comfortable work environment, including housekeeping and plant design.
  12. Job Satisfaction: Instil confidence, trust, and recognition of good safety performance.
  13. Workforce Composition: A workforce with a significant proportion of older, experienced, and socially stable workers tends to have fewer accidents, lower absenteeism, and less turnover.
  14. Work Patterns: Be cautious with night shifts and extended hours, as they can negatively affect health and safety due to fatigue and reduced performance.