Admitting you need help is the first step in creating a culture of safety

[tweetmeme]I have been engaged in several projects lately involving helping companies with their safety culture and thought I’d share some musings…

Achieving a safe working environment isn’t a neatly defined thing that can be approach with a cookie cutter mentality.  Because safety is primarily a human focused endeavor, it is important to remember that people will react differently to the same stimuli.  Some people for example will view peer to peer observations, as done in Behavior-Based Safety programs, as an intrusion or a violation of their perceived privacy.  Whereas others may welcome it as a means to achieve a greater good.  They aren’t threatened by it at all.  Trust is a key factor here, and it isn’t something to be taken lightly.

I have found that safetybehavior is a primarily a product of three considerations: 1) job or environmental factors, 2) organizational factors, and 3) human factors.  All three must be considered and evaluated if sustainable improvements can be made for attaining a safety culture. 

If safety culture is simply “an assembly of characteristics and attitudes in organizations and individuals which establishes that as an over-riding priority; safety issues receive the attention warranted by their significance”, as made popular by this quotation from the International Atomic Energy Agency.  Then it would seem pretty simple to attain a safety culture at most any organization.  Yet it remains elusive for many orgainzations.  With competing forces fighting for limited resources, safety has for many, slipped into the background.  But it need not be that way!

Beliefs, perceptions, recognition, and social pressures are just some of the human factors that can be, and should be addressed relatively on the cheap.  It doesn’t take a huge capital investment to be a champion for a safety culture and to be able to demonstrate a favorable return on investment.  Likewise, some organizational factors can be improved without drastic financial comittments.  Things like reviewing hiring practices, updating policies and procedures, implementing management systems that are top down, and implementing a return to work policy to reduce worker compensation costs can yield tremendous human factor benefits that will descrease your costs and improve safety.  Perceptions and social pressures aren’t to be ignored.

The first step is admitting that your orgainzation needs help.  Sometimes, that is the hardest thing to do to achieve meaningful change, and bring a culture of safety to any organization.



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