The importance of Safety Culture to an organization’s safety performance cannot be overemphasized. Mark Thompson, Santa Barbara Consultants Senior Safety Advisor, shares his views on this often overlooked aspect of Safety Management. Santa Barbara Consultants is prepared to assist you and your company in analyzing your Safety Culture, and developing the necessary actions to improve and strengthen your safety program.
What is your Company’s Safety Culture?
Every company today has an established Safety Culture, whether they realize it or not.
What characterizes your Safety Culture? Do your managers and front-line supervisors understand how this culture is promoting, or potentially inhibiting, your Safety Performance?
Safety Culture can be visualized as a garden, where plants are seeded and fertilized from above, and workforce, acting like gardeners, cares for the Safety Culture garden as it grows. Often times they watch passively to see if the words being spoken or publicized truly have roots or if they are just artificial plants in the garden, which we call the workplace.
A Safety Culture planted in poor soil requires far more attention and nurturing than one planted in fertile soil. In fertile soil, it is far easier for the workforce to care for the garden and take pride in watching their plants reach for the sun.
In soil where the top layer is fertile, but just below the surface there are many hidden obstacles, such as supervision, with a production first mentality – it is far more difficult for the Safety Culture to grow and prosper. In these cases, line management must blend with the topsoil to ensure that the messaging penetrates down to the roots, and that the roots actually take hold and allow the garden to grow and blossom.
Workers understand that there is little personal benefit to allow weeds to exist in the garden in the form of unsafe behaviors or conditions, however they tend to adapt and follow whatever examples shown by their line managers.
In order for a company to truly harvest the fruits of a positive Safety Culture, weeds cannot be left to grow unchecked within the garden, where they will usually overtake the and crowd out the desirable plants. Unlike the weeds growing in a real garden, many of the weeds in the garden of Safety Culture can actually be transformed into blossoming, valuable and productive plants.
So ask yourself again: What is your Safety Culture?
The only way to find out is to get into the field, listen to the voice of the workforce and observe their work habits, together with those of front-line supervision. Being in the field is a great opportunity to discuss the company goals and reinforce your willingness to support a safe workplace ahead of a productive one with poor habits. Safe Production, this most valuable of practices, is the reward you may then harvest every day. The safe worker can be your greatest ally to attain this goal, but to win them over they must feel that they have the active support at all levels of the organization.