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What is safety culture?

1. Traditional concept of safety culture
The expression “safety culture” was first used in a report written by INSAG (International Nuclear Safety Group) in the aftermath of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant Accident in 1986
※ Safety culture is an embodiment of personal and organizational attitude toward safety, which requires the dedication and responsibility of each individual
The Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant Accident
< The Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant Accident >
Up until 1995, the public awareness on safety culture was low in Korea and the term “safety culture” had only limited usage as a means to boost corporate images or when making compensations to individual workers
※ From June 9, 1995 on the day of Sampoong Department Store’s collapse, the general public started to pay more attention to safety and government-led approaches to safety culture were initiated
Sampoong Department Store’s collapse
Sampoong Department Store’s collapse
< Sampoong Department Store's collapse >
2. New concept of safety culture
Safety culture is a socio-cultural product, a combination of safety awareness that values safety behavior, regulations that encourage safety and the infrastructure enabling safety
  • Safety awareness: The value “safety first” is deeply ingrained in the activities of individuals and organizations
  • Regulations on safety: Laws and regulations that encourage safe behaviors and help to establish related infrastructure
  • Infrastructure: Facilities that are free from unsafe conditions
Three pillars of safety culture
Three pillars of safety culture
Safety culture
Safety awareness
Regulation on safety
Three main area of safety culture:
- Occupational safety and health
- School safety
- Lifestyle safety (safety at home, traffic safety and public safety)
3. Advancing safety culture
Korea’s level of OSH culture is in the development stage. However further reduction in the rate of injuries and illnesses is unlikely with the business-as-usual approach, which forces prevention activities with regulations and techniques
Changes in industrial structure (rise of the service industry), makeup of the workforce (more non-regular, female and migrant workers), and industrial scene (new technologies and the use of new chemical substances) led to the diversification of work hazards. However, employers still consider the spending on safety and health management as expenses rather than investment, while voluntary activities to boost safety and health at work is lacking
To create “decent work” that safeguards workers’ safety and health, further progress on OSH culture is called for. To that end, safety system (regulations and techniques), safety awareness (training and PR materials), and safety infrastructure (facilities and network) are the main means to achieve this goal
It is important to implement activities related to OSH culture to secure the basis for prevention activities conducted in collaboration with workers and employers and to raise public awareness on safety and health. Workers are the heads of family, parents, and drivers at the same time. If workplaces voluntarily develop their own OSH culture, it will positively affect the whole society encompassing families and schools and also ensure traffic safety
For safety and health at work to serve as a tool to spread safety culture in society, related government ministries should work together to jointly implement activities that promote safety culture
Safety and health at work