Safety Culture and How to Improve it

Safety Culture and How to Improve it

Another brilliant article from the late George Robotham 

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EXTRACT:

Management summary

Safety culture is said to be an underlying construct that influences the effectiveness of an organisation’s Safety Management System. Culture is often defined as “The way we do things around here”.

A positive safety culture is one that, among other things:

  • Encourages and retains learning
  • Promotes open & honest reporting
  • Is just and is prepared to identify its own shortcomings as easily as it seeks to address any violation of orders or instructions
  • Rewards innovation and accepts willingly constructive suggestions for continuous improvement of itself. (Di Pietro,2005)

Introduction

The author has been asked how to improve safety culture a number of times in recent years. This paper is the result of research into how to best respond to this question. He has turned to the Organisational Behavior literature as well as the Health & Safety literature in his quest for answers.

Definition of culture

Culture is often defined as “The way we do things around here”. Schein (1990) defines organisational culture as the system of shared beliefs and values that develops within an organisation and guides the behavior of its members. Culture (Woods) consists of observable culture, shared values and common assumptions. Culture is often reinforced by stories, rites, rituals and symbols.

Safety Culture

The safety culture of an enterprise comprises the beliefs, attitudes, norms and work practices of management & employees. Safety culture refers to what an organisation is like in terms of safety and health, it includes aspects such as managements attitude and actions about safety and, in particular, the attitudes and beliefs of individuals and groups at work concerning the perceived magnitude of risks and the necessity and practicality of preventative measures (Safetyline Institute)

  • A positive safety culture is one that, among other things
  • Encourages and retains learning
  • Promotes open & honest reporting
  • Is just and is prepared to identify its own shortcomings as easily as it seeks to address any violation of orders or instructions
  • Rewards innovation and accepts willingly constructive suggestions for continuous improvement of itself.(Di Pietro,2005)

Senior managers are the key to a successful safety culture. A true safety culture is established when safety is valued as highly as productivity. Managers and supervisors need to be held accountable for safety in the same manner as production.

Safety culture is about good safety attitudes in people but it is also good safety management established by organisations. Good safety culture means giving the highest priority to safety. Good safety culture implies a constant assessment of the safety significance of events, and issues, in order that the appropriate level of attention can be given. (Bastin,2003)

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