HSE 205 Understanding your HSE culture (version 5) - English with Bahasa cultural dimensions

Document options

EI Technical Partners get free access to publications. You will need to Login or Register here

  • Published: March 2021
  • Edition: 5th
  • Status: Current

Understanding your HSE culture is one of the world's most widely used tool for measuring HSE culture. The tool measures organisational HSE culture against the Hearts and Minds/Hudson and Parker safety culture ladder.

Culture can be divided into five levels of development, from the ‘Pathological’ to the ‘Generative’, as shown in the picture below:

  • Pathological: people don’t really care about HSE and are only driven by regulatory compliance and/or not getting caught.
  • Reactive: safety is taken seriously, but only after things have gone wrong. Managers feel frustrated about how the workforce won’t do what they are told.
  • Calculative: focus on systems and numbers. Lots of data is collected and analysed, lots of audits are performed and people begin to feel they know "how it works". The effectiveness of the gathered data is not always proven though.
  • Proactive: moving away from managing HSE based on what has happened in the past to preventing what might go wrong in the future. The workforce start to be involved in practice and the Line begins to take over the HSE function, while HSE personnel reduce in numbers and provide advice rather than execution.
  • Generative: organisations set very high standards and attempt to exceed them. They use failure to improve, not to blame. Management knows what is really going on, because the workforce tells them. People are trying to be as informed as possible, because it prepares them for the unexpected. This state of "chronic unease" reflects a belief that despite all efforts, errors will occur and that even minor problems can quickly escalate into system-threatening failures.

How it works


Understanding your HSE culture helps organisations explore their culture by providing descriptions of how companies behave at the 5 different levels of culture. Version 5 uses 18 ‘cultural dimensions’ (things common to most companies that could be used to assess the culture) – and now this has been expanded to 23 dimensions in version 6 (only available in English, German, Polish and Turkish).

In a workshop, people in the organisation are asked to select those descriptions that most closely reflect how they believe the organisation behaves. This allows the organisation to compare themselves against each cultural level, and to identify areas of strength and weakness.


1. Run the Understanding your HSE culture exercise in a workshop with up to 20 people from a cross-section of the organisation.

2. Each person will need a copy of the Understanding your HSE culture booklet and a score sheet to do this (score sheets for version 6 can be downloaded at the top of the page).

3. Calculate your results (a spreadsheet is downloadable at the top of the page for version 6) and feed these back to the group using the PowerPoint presentation (downloadable at the top of the page).

4. Use the results to encourage the workshop participants to discuss where they believe the safety issues are and how these can be improved.

Next steps

The findings of the workshop should help you understand your cultural level, and plan your culture change programme, including which issues to focus on and which (if any) Hearts and Minds tools to use.  Essentially, the purpose of the workshop is to turn the generalised issues raised using the questionnaire into specific issues.  Some of these issues may be the focus of other Hearts and Minds tools, and many won't be.

Members Benefits

Are you an EI Member? If yes, register/log in now to ensure you receive free access or discounts to EI publications.

If you are not a Member, why not join today and receive all of the benefits of EI Membership? EI Members are entitled to a 25% discount on most EI publications.