Safety Culture: Why Does it Matter?
"Management systems and their associated policies and procedures depend upon the actions of individuals and groups for their successful implementation… The values of the group (e.g., corporation, plant, shift, team) help shape the beliefs and attitudes of the individual, which in turn, play a significant role in determining individual behaviors. A weak safety culture can be (and likely will be) evidenced by the actions and inactions of personnel at all levels of the organization."
AICE notes that a sound safety culture:
- Espouses safety as a core value
- Provides strong leadership
- Establishes and enforces high standards of performance
- Maintains a sense of vulnerability
- Empowers individuals to successfully fulfill their safety responsibilities
- Provides deference to expertise
- Ensures open and effective communications
- Establishes a questioning/learning environment
- Fosters mutual trust
- Provides timely response to safety issues and concerns
- Provides continuous monitoring of performance
AICE recommends the following steps to address safety culture issues:
- Create awareness. Learn about available tools and exercises (such as a culture survey) to identify issues that need to be addressed. Involve both corporate and site leaders in your efforts.
- Identify a champion. While every member of the organization should be part of the culture-building process, a champion can help lead the charge, especially if the transformation will be significant.
- Perform a gap analysis. Learn how your culture stacks up against the attributes listed above. Identify the gaps and develop a risk-based response to closing them.
- Steward cultural change. Culture change cannot be mandated. The role of leaders is to inspire, enable, nurture, and model acceptable behaviors and practices. Reinforce positive actions, like them to benefits they bring, and relate the benefits to beliefs about why they are important.
- Keep the organization focused. In some cases, culture change is fueled by a loss. Hopefully, that is not the case at your place of business. Find positive ways to keep the focus on the daily work of building and growing an effective safety culture.