There are real financial incentives for senior management to actively work at promoting a positive health and safety culture. In most cases these are also the very people who manage the day-to-day finances of the business and although they may not regard money as an important personal motivator, they can, by the very nature of their closeness to the business finances, recognise the importance of money.
There is now a strong argument that money has become more of a motivating factor for managers improving health and safety in the workplace, than the legal or moral reasons.
The role of insurance companies in the health and safety arena has increased enormously over the past few years and, many believe they now wield more power for forcing improvements than the HSE. Senior managers are well aware of the increasing burden that liability premiums place on their businesses. What better proof that money is and rightly should be used as a positive motivator in improving a health and safety culture within senior management.
At a lower management within an organisation, there may be different thoughts on the benefits of money as a motivator and whether it has a positive effect on safety culture. Middle management may still see money as a very positive personal motivator and for some it remains the main reason for working long hours in order to achieve promotion. They may however allow corners to be cut resulting in lower health and safety standards in order to get the job done ahead of target and under budget. They perhaps see the short-term financial benefits of their actions as being beneficial to them personally without seeing the detrimental effect they can have on the safety culture.
In some industries, oil and gas, manufacturing and construction in particular, there exists real role conflicts between getting the job done within budget and maintaining good health and safety standards. In these instances, money as a motivator can have a negative effect on the safety culture.
For front line staff, money is a strong motivator as people working at this level really need it and value it. It is at this level where people are most likely to ignore safety systems in the mistaken belief that this will lead to financial gain without any detrimental effect on the business as a whole.
Their short-term gain however can have a negative effect on the organisation’s safety culture as they seldom see the bigger picture.
The task facing business leaders therefore is to somehow communicate the message that money as a motivator can only have a lasting positive effect on a safety culture when everyone involved gives up his or her short-term personal gains in favour of the longer-term benefits to the organisation.