Cultivating a Sustainable Safety Culture by Overcoming Limiting Mindsets
To instil a lasting safety culture in the workplace, organisations must address the root causes of unsafe behaviours. While most companies recognise the importance of safety, many struggle to maintain improvements beyond the initial phases.
This occurs when organisations overly rely on tools and processes, neglecting the fundamental employee mindsets that shape safety behaviours. We have identified five common limiting mindsets and corresponding approaches to overcome them for sustained change.
- Fear of Blame: Reporting incidents can result in punishment, discouraging employees from doing so. To reverse this mindset, involve employees in determining penalty protocols, making them perceive sanctions as fair. More crucially, establish an environment that rewards safe behaviours and incident reporting. An example of this is a company that rewarded employees with tokens for raising safety concerns and fostering a culture of reporting and discussion.
- Disempowerment: The belief that safety is solely the responsibility of specialists. Encourage a “managed safety” approach, granting employees the autonomy to exercise judgment when safety rules may not suffice. Leaders should provide positive feedback to teams that take the initiative to enhance safety. Comprehensive investigations should consider not only the employee’s decision but also other factors contributing to incidents.
- Trade-off: The notion that safety compromises productivity. Develop safety standards that integrate seamlessly with existing processes, bridging the gap between safety and productivity. Collaborative workshops with cross-functional teams can help streamline procedures, ensuring both safety and productivity are optimized.
- Fatalism: Accepting injuries as an inherent part of the job. To combat this, align leadership and employees on what a “zero goal” means. Set achievable targets for injury reduction and consider additional leading indicators. Calibrating expectations together can drive commitment and exceed goals.
- Complacency: Assuming cultural change is a slow process. Shift this perspective by finding personal meaning in safety, rather than waiting for a tragedy to strike. One successful strategy is to engage key influencers and generate early wins to build momentum.
Four Ways to Shift these Mindsets:
- Reward Safe Behaviours: Encourage desired behaviours through positive reinforcement, shifting mindsets over time.
- Clarify Safety as the Priority: Explicitly communicate that there are no trade-offs between safety and productivity. Safety is the primary focus, and productivity often follows when safety is prioritized.
- Develop Soft Skills: In addition to technical skills, emphasize soft skills such as identifying systemic issues, and creating a safe environment for open communication, hazard recognition, and risk management.
- Role Model Behaviours from the Top: Leadership and influential figures in the organization play a pivotal role in shaping corporate culture. Acknowledging safety performance during meetings reinforces the commitment to safety.
In conclusion, while there are various methods to enhance workplace safety, the cornerstone of a sustainable safety culture lies in identifying and surmounting limiting mindsets. By addressing these mindsets and implementing corresponding strategies, companies can foster a deeply ingrained safety culture that yields long-lasting improvements in safety outcomes.