WHY SAFETY CULTURE PROGRAMS ARE FAILING
Throughout my career, I’ve seen countless safety culture programs and initiatives. Traditionally, these fall short or flicker briefly like a candle. They ignite enthusiasm briefly within the confines of a classroom, only to see that spark extinguished, as participants depart leaving inspiration and commitment well behind.
Why does this happen? The underlying issue within safety culture is not what you might think.
The root cause of a tainted safety culture remains unacknowledged and unaddressed. The true villain, the architect of a troubled safety culture, is none other than the safety profession and industry itself. Safety, especially within culture, has become its own worst enemy.
Yes, that’s right. The safety profession and the regulatory authorities, collectively, create a more potent cloud of resistance over safety than any other force I’ve encountered in my 33 years of safety experience.
You’re a welder, with 40 years of experience, working away and a 20-something-year-old ‘academic’ who’s never worn a set of steel caps in his life presents you with a clipboard and proceeds to lecture you on ‘systems or procedures’. Is this building culture, connecting people to safety, and creating a trust-based environment? No. That might be a slight embellishment, but you get my point.
In the past, I must confess to feeding this resistance also. Safety professionals generate an avalanche of new acronyms every year, introduce novel ways of ‘doing safety’ at an alarming pace, and create fresh labels to the latest and greatest safety ‘silver bullets.’ Ask yourself, how many ‘new’ safety initiatives have you seen in just the past year?
This approach is no longer working. The solitary strategy I have observed that genuinely impacts individuals in their workplace and their perception of safety is the act of CONNECTING them to the very essence of safety and inviting their active PARTICIPATION in the process.
The safety profession has evolved into a self-serving behemoth, justifying its existence through the constant creation of ‘novelties’ every five minutes. Yet, novelty is no longer the answer. People are still being hurt at work, and in some industry sectors, incident rates have surged. What does this tell us about the true meaning of ‘safety’ and the actions of regulatory authorities in the industrial landscape?
Consider this: In Australia alone, regulatory authorities are escalating fines, reaching a staggering $10 million for non-compliance and negligence in the wake of serious incidents. This doesn’t even encompass the looming wrath of incarceration.
What impact does this approach have on our business leaders, Board Members, CEOs, and Managing Directors? This is nothing short of a fear-driven strategy that diverts businesses away from what genuinely matters within safety: Leadership, Culture, Systems, and continuous improvement. Today, businesses are fixated on legal compliance, at the expense of their workers’ well-being and the fortification of their corporate culture. How on earth can a strong and cohesive safety culture be created, under the premises of a compliance-based landscape?
I recently conducted a survey on LinkedIn, posing a pivotal question: ‘When contemplating ways to enhance safety performance within your business or safety in general, what holds greater significance to you?’ The resounding response, accounting for at least 65% of the poll, was ‘IMPROVING SAFETY CULTURE.’
Are we heeding this call? It appears not, so I want to leave you with this parting thought:
Transform safety into a visible and genuine caring for what truly matters – the well-being and safety of your people. Engage them in the process, discard the unnecessary ‘safety’ jargon, reward values and build an environment where your people see and feel, how important their safety and well-being are. It’s simple, nothing new, nothing complex, just connecting people with what’s important.
If you want to delve into how simple this truly is, then contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org