Effectiveness in Managing Risk and Cultural Change
A blast from the past (August 2013) article – The need to change safety culture
In recent times it has occurred to coroner’s at inquests, auditors and government (eg. Cole Commission) that poor safety culture has a central role in normalising unsafe practice. The development of the Federal Safety Commission in the construction industry (with one of the highest rates of injuries to workers) was to address the issue of safety cultural change. Inspectors and auditors are now ever mindful that despite physical, technological, engineering, administrative and legislative measures to control safety, people are still being injured at work. These five controls in themselves are not the complete story about safety. Research by Geller, Reason, Slovic, Barling, Frone, Wilde, Rougton, Mercurio, Weick and many safety experts established that a high percentage of incidents and accidents are caused by unsafe practices entrenched and normalised by poor safety culture. The organisations which focus on the five controls and culture are what Weick calls “High Reliability Organisations” and “Total Safety Organisations”.
We all want the same thing but how do we get there?
Everyone interested in safety wants the same thing, they don’t want anyone to be hurt. Injuries, whether physical or psychological, rarely bring pain to the just an individual. Injuries always have a domino effect and so the pain flows on to family, friends, business, organisations, employment arrangements, insurance, medical and therapeutic services. Any business that has regard for their employees and their families wants the best for them, it is also in business interests that they see employees at work the next day. Business interruption and disruption is costly and has a domino effect and so the disruption flows on to morale, confidence, negativity, scepticism, double-speak, motivation and unethical practice. These are the values which are sometimes evident in sub-cultures in organisational safety culture which invisibly work against change, development and innovation.
There is much evidence to show that negativity, punishment and rigidity have little longitudinal effect in changing behaviour. The prison system is a testimony to the fact that punishment doesn’t work. Whilst demand for more correctional facilities continues to increase the recidivism rate remains extremely high. From the time of the convicts we don’t seem to have learned much from history about punishment. Whilst simplistic approaches to zero tolerance are espoused by law enforcement agencies and the media most educationalists know that the result of such policies entrenches resentment and nothing much is learned or owned by the victims of the policy. Longitudinally, zero tolerance drives reporting underground, develops a sub-culture of cynicism and disregards all that is known about how people really learn and change? Unless people are motivated positively to change and own the values associated with that change then the desired behaviour will not be realised or worse still is only realised whilst the agents of control are around.
The focus of consulting, advice and training by Human Dymensions seeks holistic engagement and development through changing values, understanding human nature and how people learn. This approach has its focus on positive psychology and the power of self actualisation. Change results when people truly learn, own a new set of values and are motivated to act on those values. The following table explains this approach in comparison to some other popular approaches.