“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