Enculturing Safety

Enculturing Safety

image30 July Speaking at a rally in Washington DC on 2011 Matt Damon stated:

“As I look at my life today, the things I value the most about myself are my imagination, the love of acting, my passion for writing, my love of learning, my curiosity – all come from how I was parented and taught.

And, none of these qualities that I just mentioned – none of these qualities that I prize so deeply, that have brought to me so much joy, that have brought me so much professional success, none of these qualities that make me who I am… can be tested.”

A safety culture cannot be built or indeed measured using traditional systems or KPI’s. Using current methods all we are doing is perpetuating the status quo, because its familiar and the only thing we know.

If we want to truly transform safety to the next level, we need to embody more deeper dispositions and enduring characteristics such as reflections, imaginations and creations that serve to motivate behaviour and define employees more as thinkers and learners.

To achieve this, dispositions must be developed over time and nurtured across a variety of circumstances, so they become ingrained and emerge when things go both right and wrong.

Building a safety culture requires an ongoing apprenticeship in which people learn safer behaviours from others based on authentic activities. The enculturation of safety within a business must be a gradual process integrating realistic safety messages and values that reflect real life experiences through interaction with peers on a day-to-day basis.

To enculture safety, we will need to send out a clear message of what we want to achieve and how it could happen. This is of course is not an easy task and requires a core of people to “Talk the Talk” and “Walk the Walk” and dream a new vision and articulate its essence.

We will need to change safety language from one base on compliance to one of innovation, imagination and lifelong learning.

What if business leaders:

· measured success not by safety statistics, but by goals that groups were able to accomplish?

· took the development of workers intellectual character as their highest calling?

· measured workers performance on understanding and application, rather than merely the acquisition of national standards?

· measure performance by establishing innovative ways to improve health and safety, rather than filling out forms all day?

For health and safety to improve methods must be valued, visible and actively promoted by all. We must develop worker centred learning as a result of innovative thinking, not something that is tacked on the side when the time suits.

Techniques for improving a culture of safety

· get people talking, asking questions, challenging the status quo, wondering about how safety can be done differently

· making connections and comparisons between things within different industries and adopting or modifying them to suit a task or situation

· build ongoing and evolving expectations, interpretations and theories based on changing knowledge, technology and environments

· look more closely at what we do to fully perceive details, nuances and deeper aspects of roles and tasks to find out “What’s really going on”?

· promote group engagement and interdependence at all levels

· promote growth vs fixed mindsets

· focus on learning instead of the work (the work is a means to an end, not the end in itself – and employees need to be part of the journey)

· teach for understanding rather than just gaining knowledge

· dedicate more time to actively listen to what the workers are telling us and give feedback and praise more regularly

· concentrate on the big rocks first, which are often health concerns rather than physical hazards

· use storytelling to migrate and stimulate worker visions for newer more innovative healthier and safer ideas

To build new cultures of thinking, we need to move away from conventional systems, repetitive paperwork and unnecessary duplication and change workers pedagogy, allowing them to dig deeper by posting interesting questions, setting up a framework for inquiry and letting people discuss options without management intervention.

Employees should be immersed in a culture of thinking and see things develop from scratch to embody them in the process, to visualise what success might look like and the associated benefits in terms of reduced risks, fewer incidents, fringe benefits etc.

A framework for establishing a safety culture should perhaps consider these keys attributes:

Suppositions – focusing on learning and worker independence. To be smarter through challenges which embrace change

Vocabulary – to be able to notice, name and highlight an activity, thinking out ideas that are important within any learning context and drawing the workers attention to the concepts and practices in the process

Time – giving workers time to think about what they’re doing and discussions with co-workers helps people achieve learning goals faster as they become more engaged

Modelling – fostering engagement with ideas and concepts and sharing knowledge of when things go right or wrong?

Opportunities – allowing workers to challenge misconceptions and clarify a position which may lead to a wholly different perspective on a task or objective

Routines – providing known structures so that people can operate and take control of new methods of thinking and learning. “How should we be doing things around here”?

Interactions – listening and questioning are the basis for positive interactions and meaningful collaboration to build a culture of safety. At the heart of any good interactions lies a respect for interest in employees thinking

Environment – considering the best place to set up and facilitate life-long learning

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Mark Taylor

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Mark Taylor
Mark Taylor is a key note speaker and trainer who has spent the majority of his career educating and helping people to take health and safety seriously. Over a period of twenty years he has worked across a broad spectrum of industries around the world and has developed a number of innovative safety tools that are now common in many workplaces. Mark continues to see things differently and push the boundaries in safety management beyond traditional systems and approaches, which he feels are dated and limited.

One Reply to “Enculturing Safety”

  1. Most corporate behemoths are from the United States of Amnesia, which has no culture. Its only business is business and is reflected via the Friedman doctrine from the profits of cents at the Chicago school of economics.

    Executive leadership teams are littered with socially autistic hatchet faced martinets straight from the West Point military academy and any skerrick of collective coherence is immediately disparaged and categorised as socialism.

    The long march of neoliberalism, which began in the 1970s via the sophism of trickle down economics or a rising tide lifts all boats has generated increasing inequality, totalitarianism and kleptocracy.

    Abraham Lincoln abolished slavery back in the 1860s and proclaimed labour was far superior to capital. We now have a gig economy, which is effectively indentured servitude and will degenerate into peonage, especially with a cashless society.

    Rapid advances in technology have expedited the social atomisation process, which has dehumanised society and is exacerbated by objective statutory legislation with the progressive erosion of common law rights.

    Ask any employees who have had the misfortune of working for Apple, General Electric, Nestle, Coca Cola, ConocoPhillips or any of the major chemical conglomerates. Indeed, the past performances of Occidental Petroleum with Love Canal and Piper Alpha, Union Carbide with Gawley Mountain and Bhopal and WR Grace with Libby in Montana, provide sufficient evidence.

    Ralph Nader has been embarking on this crusade since Unsafe at Any Speed was first published back in 1965.

    The United States of Amnesia, which lost the Vietnam war merely considers humans as extensions of machines and work related fatalities, injuries and ill health are collateral damage.

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