Dart River

Safety Culture

A positive safety culture is the principle on which all other safety aspects are founded. It is characterised by full buy-in to your systems and procedures, with every individual taking personal responsibility for overall safety, their own safe behavior and the welfare of their visitors and other team members.

A positive safety culture is underpinned by committed leaders, efforts to continually improve and strong communication.  

The WorkSafe NZ website has excellent information and tools on how to establish, embed and measure safety culture.

Leadership commitment

Leaders set the conditions in the organisation, they control the resources and have a huge influence on the culture. Leaders of a positive safety culture have full buy-in to organisational systems and procedures, take personal responsibility for safety and expect all staff to do the same.

The commitment of top leadership and the involvement of staff in the development and continual improvement of an organisation’s Safety Management System are the most important factors in its effectiveness.

Top Leadership is defined in the Adventure Activities Regulations Safety Audit Standard as:

A person or group of people associated with the operator’s organisation who direct and control the operations at the highest level within the legal entity. Top leadership is equivalent to the ‘officers’ of a person controlling a business or undertaking (PCBU) as defined in the Health and Safety at Work Act.  

Top leadership has the power to delegate authority and provide resources within the operation, and is ultimately responsible for compliance with health and safety law and good practice. Depending on the scale and nature of the operation, top leadership may include directors, trustees, board members, executive managers, or an owner/operator. It does not extend to any holding company or other form of separate ownership. 

Continual improvement 

Continual improvement is an important part of a strong safety culture. To continually improve an operation shows that it's looking forward and actively improving safety. You need to always be looking for opportunities to improve skills, processes and procedures, tools and equipment to get better results. 

Setting health and safety goals and objectives is an important way to drive continual improvement. Goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time specific. They should be documented in your safety management plan and include a process for monitoring and evaluating progress against them. 

To be truly effective, safety goals must be developed with input from staff. 

Regular internal and external safety reviews or audits are key components of continual improvement and are addressed in the Safety Management System section. 


Teams with strong safety cultures have open, regular and effective communication. This can be achieved in many ways, but should include:

  • building a culture of trust in which your team know they can raise any issues and that they will be handled in a constructive and supportive manner
  • regular team discussions about the importance of open and honest communication and the role of each person in making sure it happens
  • acknowledging and accommodating individual communication styles, but ensuring the underlying principles of being open and honest are the same for everyone
  • ensuring a range of ‘fit for purpose’ communication options are used that meet the needs of your team, ranging from information operational chats through to pre-season safety meetings with  formal agendas
  • role model communication behavior from management and senior staff

Communicating your SMS

All stakeholders, such as contractors, participants, land managers and staff must understand what their role is in the SMS and where relevant information is stored.

Information on SMS changes and safety updates must get to those who need it, when they need it and in a way that works for them. 

Describe how you will achieve this in your Safety Management Plan. Strategies include:  

  • clearly identifying where various elements of the SMS are documented and stored
  • staff SMS induction and training
  • regular staff meetings
  • notes from meetings being circulated and/or displayed
  • safety information displayed on notice boards or walls
  • incident followup staff and stakeholder safety update protocols 
  • staff involvement in safety management committees
  • client information and briefings
  • contractor inductions and written documentation
  • written agreements and regular scheduled meetings with land managers.