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No room for CEOs to be complacent about health and safety

No room for CEOs to be complacent about health and safety

Survey finds despite solid foundations many organisations face challenges in improving health and safety performance

Four in five CEOs say their organisation’s health and safety performance improved in 2016, most rank health and safety as a key business priority and nearly all boards discuss health and safety risks, according to a survey released today by Deloitte and the Business Leaders’ Health & Safety Forum.

However, the second annual Health and Safety Leadership Survey, entitled Walking the talk, has found that many organisations still face challenges in improving on the solid foundations they have built for health and safety. Particularly in the key areas of worker engagement and risk management.

While 90 percent of CEO survey respondents believe their programmes for involving workers in health and safety are effective, they still identify workplace culture and attitudes as a main barriers to improving health and safety.

According to Deloitte Risk Advisory Leader Aloysius Teh this represents a potentially worrisome gap between perception at the top and reality on the ground.

“This suggests current programmes to engage workers in health and safety might not be delivering the improvements CEOs want, and that a different or broader range of activities might be needed,” says Mr Teh.

What’s more, currently only a quarter of respondents indicate their organisations run specific culture change initiatives, less than a third run dedicated health and safety culture surveys, just over half include health and safety in general engagement surveys and worker participation ranks last in a list of health and safety-related topics discussed by boards.

In terms of risk management, nine out of ten CEOs are confident the health and safety risks in their organisations are effectively managed. But at the same time a quarter of respondents say their risks are not well described.

“Understanding a risk is critical to its effective management. If risks are not well understood, there is a question whether risk management is as effective as CEOs believe,” says Mr Teh.

Another factor potentially undermining effective risk management is that more than a third of organisations don’t include health and safety in their strategic organisational planning or use data analytics to identify trends and needs. And less than half track occupational health, suggesting this significant area of harm could be a blind spot for many CEOs.

Business Leaders’ Health & Safety Forum Executive Director Francois Barton points out that improving risk management and worker participation are key goals of the Health and Safety at Work Act, which came into force in April last year.

“The survey responses suggest there is no room for CEOs to be complacent about their performance in these areas. They also point to an ongoing need for support for CEOs to help them understand what good looks like in terms of risk management and worker participation,” says Mr Barton.

“The new legislation is in place and the investments are being made. So now is the time to ensure that businesses walk the talk around health and safety,” he adds.

“We encourage all business leaders to use this survey to reflect on your current approach and consider how well your investment in health and safety is targeted towards the priorities for improving performance.”

The full survey report can be viewed or downloaded from


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