Those involved in implementing safety in the workplace are often interested in the ‘next big thing’ to improve their safety metrics and safety culture. ‘Moore’s Law’ states that the processing power for computers doubles every eighteen months. While this law is applied to computers, it can be applied more broadly to the development of other technology so when asked, what’s the next ‘big thing’ in safety, one can assume that there will be exponentially more and more safety technologies on the market as time goes by. The ‘next big thing’ is often sought out as a way to improve safety metrics and safety culture.
While new technologies certainly have the potential to a make a difference, if your organisation does not have a healthy Safety Culture the best technology available on the market will not make a difference.
What is a Safety Culture?
Safety culture can be defined as shared values and beliefs that interact with an organisation’s structures and control systems to produce behavioural norms. Safety is more than safety policies, it’s about having it firmly embedded within the broader organisational culture where acting safely has become part of the company DNA. To drive a positive safety culture, both top down and bottom up processes are required. You can read further about investing in a safety culture here.
How is your Safety Culture operating?
Let’s review where your safety culture is at right now. Have a think about your workplace and answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the following:
- Employees are keen to report and learn from safety issues, no matter how small
- When my team reports a safety issue it’s investigated immediately
- Informal discussions about safety are part of the way we do business around here
- All employees attend safety training, and are keen to do so
- Leaders act as safety mentors to their teams
- Leaders model safe behaviours at all times and genuinely lead by example
- Employees model and report on safety because they value its importance, not because it meets a safety key performance measure (KPI).
If you answered ‘no’ to any of the above, your safety culture may have something to do with it. It is important to understand what factors are at play and what needs to be done to support an embedded value of, and for safety, not just focus on achieving a safe working environment. While your organisation may encourage safety values and introduce safety systems to support the organisation, overtime these become familiar, even passé resulting in safety performance plateauing over time.
Seven Steps for Leaders to build a Safety Culture
Leadership is one of the key success factors for creating and embedding a safety culture. As a leader, there are seven actions that can be implemented to improve your organisation’s safety culture:
- Communicate the safety vision – actively and openly set a safety vision and safety priorities for your organisation and communicate them via a number of channels
- Engage your employees – in the safety visioning and how to implement the safety policies, procedures and practices. By engaging your employees, you will have the opportunity to understand any obstacles and give them the opportunity to change their attitudes. This engagement process will acknowledge them as the expert on how to do their jobs, and set expectations and mechanisms for upwards feedback and communication
- Implement – ensure that safety policies, procedures and practices are implemented well
- ‘Walk the Talk’ – Leaders actively demonstrate their commitment to safety by ‘walking the talk’ and following every policy, procedure and practice to the letter. Authenticity and transparency in the leader’s behaviours will speak more to your employees about their value of safety than any posters or espoused values can ever do then monitor progress on working towards
- Investigate and understand – why safety issues could be occurring, there might be more to it than simple carelessness. A number of neuroscience theories such as Inattentional Blindness and Change Blindness can help you understand why safety has become a habit rather than a priority
- Be a great coach for your team – use a coaching model similar to the GROW coaching framework (Goals, Current Reality, Options, Way Forward) to better coach safety in the workplace. Using the GROW model helps people to come to their own conclusions about safe working practices, and at the same time, they are empowered in the process. Further reading on coaching can be found here.
- Motivate employees to make safety a priority – the keys to motivating staff include empowering employees to made decisions about safety themselves, create links to job satisfaction and build expertise with the cohort so it becomes ‘the way we do things around here’.
These seven steps are the foundations to building a strong safety culture. TMS provides a tailored approach to implementing a Safety Culture, we also have a one day Safety Leadership program with a full range of tools to improve capability to improve safety culture.
You can find out more about improving your safety culture by contacting TMS Consulting via email or phone (07) 3003 1473.