We often forget, that safe working does not come about through additional procedures, processes or systems. The real difference is made when these systems engage people. Here are my Top 5 Tips for developing a ‘Positive Safety Culture’ at work.
A look at the often forgotten cultural aspects of HSE, which are useful and can influence people to do the right thing and ‘be safe’.
Be Fair, Open and Honest
As we all know, the desired outcome of safe working is not always achieved in work environments. It is important therefore, to ensure that when smaller ‘undesired events and conditions’ are identified. Systems must exist for reporting, investigating and taking action on the smaller issues to prevent bigger ones. To put it very simply, before a loss happens (injury, property damage, catastrophic events etc.), we know that the organization usually gets a number of ‘free lessons’ or ‘near misses’, which should be used a valuable predictor to prevent more severe losses. How the reporting of these are encouraged, reported and fed back to the person who raised them is absolutely critical to the success of this system.
Value your People
Before anyone is engaged into a positive safety culture, they need to feel valued in their job. Continually telling someone ‘You need to do better’ (even if it is True!) does not lead to a long lasting safety culture. So, what needs to be done is to identify the smallest of positives in people’s wok and behavior- applaud and encourage this continually. It doesn’t have to be complicated- shaking someone’s hand and simply telling them what they have done well at is a great start.
Simple & Repetitive Communications
First of all, communications must reflect the needs of the target audience. Checklists, procedures and written communication over-load is also a bad idea when it comes to culture change. We need also to understand that Safety information is also competing with the fast, fun & easy communications from social media and the internet. And, in most environments, the very people we need to engage have this information at their fingertips. Keep communications, short, relevant to the environment and simple. Ensure, where possible, that these communications happen at the same time of the day, week or month.
Measure the leading Indicators
When setting our KPI’s, we must always be aware of the fact that simply measuring the output of the system or ‘lagging indicator’ (i.e. the accident/incident) is not an effective measure. In order to effectively measure performance, we need to measure that positive efforts or inputs or the ‘leading indicators’ (i.e. the things which are done to prevent the lagging indicators). You would expect your accountant to merely measure how much money you have lost per month- would you? You would ask for further measures or insight into why you lost it. The same thing goes for safety. Measure the things which will prevent the outcome.
Be Positive & Reward
As Safety Professionals, we are too often consumed with delivering the ‘bad news’. My final tip is to challenge yourself to create reward and recognition initiatives and become a champion within your workplace for rewarding and recognizing others for safe working. More effort should be put on identifying the positives. For example, when workplace inspections are undertaken, merely identifying the gaps is not going to create a positive culture. When things are good, we must also, identify the positives and applaud those who made it happen.
We need to remember that our systems are only as effective as the people who implement them. Engaging them into the system is a cornerstone to success.