Wednesday, 15 March, 2017
Following a rigorous two-year research study, safety culture expert Sentis has shared insights gathered from 17 companies across six industries in its e-book: Driving a Positive Safety Culture. The complimentary e-book uncovers the key drivers that define positive and negative safety cultures and provides practical recommendations for leaders seeking to improve safety culture in their organisation.
Sentis has prepared a brief summary of the e-book for NSCA Foundation members and those wanting to delve deeper into the findings.
As safety leaders, we aspire to build a strong, positive safety culture. We seek to motivate employees to perform work safely, to show discretionary effort and to look out for one another. We know safety is more than just compliance and strive to create a culture where safety becomes part of our organisational DNA.
But what do positive safety behaviours look like in the field? And how do we address behaviours that are hindering our safety efforts?
5 drivers of a positive safety culture
- A genuine and visible safety commitment — Positive safety cultures are characterised by a shared perception that leaders at all levels are genuinely committed to health and safety. Trust and credibility are key. Be seen to be investing in safety, make it a priority and step out onto the ‘shop floor’. Spending time talking with employees about health and safety makes your commitment visible and encourages a positive perception of safety commitment.
- Team safety support — Group expectations are powerful predictors of individual behaviour. In positive safety cultures, there is a shared expectation to work safely, without exception. Team members watch each other’s backs and pull each other up — correcting unsafe behaviour and promoting safety within the team.
- High-quality safety communication — Utilise opportunities (eg, pre-starts) to talk about safety and encourage two-way communication. In doing so, communication opportunities become job relevant and respond to team happenings, changing work conditions, etc.
- Embracing safety responsibilities — Who owns safety in your organisation? In some organisations, responsibility is deferred to the safety team with a ‘it’s their job, not mine’ mentality. In positive safety cultures, the safety team are subject matter experts; but ultimately, each individual takes personal ownership over safety.
- Providing the tools needed to do the job safely — Ensure the necessary gear to work safety is provided, fit for purpose and easily accessible. In positive safety cultures, employees actively participate in procurement decisions, providing feedback as expert users to ensure gear meets practical needs.
5 drivers of a negative safety culture
- Poorly implemented safety systems — Confusion around the purpose of a system, excessive complexity, lack of job relevance and inaccessibility are just a few of the barriers to successful adoption of safety systems. If you notice employees taking a ‘tick and flick’ approach or sidestepping systems all together, these are likely signs of a negative safety culture.
- Procedural unfairness — In negative safety cultures, there is a perception that some employees get away with safety transgressions, while others are punished harshly. Blaming and unfair discipline are rife and frontline leaders typically lack the soft skills required to have effective performance conversations.
- Barriers to reporting — Employees are unlikely to see the value in reporting incidents when there is lack of visible or timely action by management. A lack of feedback on reported incidents and perceived negative repercussions also hinder reporting.
- Risk habituation and complacency — When unsafe work practices become the norm, the workforce becomes risk ignorant. Similarly, attitudes such as ‘risk is simply part of the job’ and ‘anything goes’ during high demand or peak periods lead to knowingly working unsafely and taking shortcuts.
- Change (mis)management — Mismanaged change is usually characterised by a top-down, non-consultative approach. Coupled with poor communication and inconsistent implementation, trust between the workforce and management erodes, leaving employees cynical of the organisation’s commitment to safety and worker welfare.
Learn more about the 10 key drivers that impact safety performance; for more details including recommendations for leveraging and addressing these drivers in your business to promote a positive safety culture, download the e-book here.
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