Friday, October 26, 2012

Workplace safety: A cultural change

Financial News and Daily Record by Karen Brune Mathis 28 March 2012

Organizational consultant Hal Resnick contends that workplace safety is a culture and creating it can require major organizational change.

The root causes of major accidents — and most others — lies in the lack of a fundamental safety culture.  In virtually every one the post-disaster analysis revealed a set of underlying conditions that made these disasters both predictable and avoidable.

Resnick says that “Management’s excuse is that excessive attention to safety will hamper productivity and break the bank.  The reality is that creating a safety culture drives the same values and actions that also create increased productivity; enhanced product quality and reliability; increased innovation; continuous improvement; enhanced employee engagement; and an improved bottom line." 

“It’s both the right thing to do and it makes good business sense."

According to Resnick, a safety culture has three dimensions: organizational or structural, group norms, and individual responsibility and accountability.

Structural attributes of a safety culture
• Are roles and responsibilities clearly defined and followed?
• Are employees empowered to act to address safety concerns, or are they expected to follow the chain of command?
• Does the organization recognize and reward employees who raise issues, or is the general response to shoot the messenger?
• Are work processes and procedures clearly defined and followed?
• Is attention to safety everywhere or confined to an employee’s own work area?
• Does the company expect everyone to do work safely or is the message that the organization can’t afford the time to do everything “by the book”?
• Are safety reports reviewed with action and follow-up or do they generate a defensive response?
Group norms and values
• Are employees at all levels across the organization encouraged to speak up to raise concerns without fear of retaliation or reproach?
• Are audits welcomed or seen as an intrusion?
• Is safety perceived as a real commitment or an act of compliance?
• Does peer pressure encourage individuals to speak up or keep their mouth shut?
• Are safety and production intertwined or is safety seen as a cost that interferes with production?
• Are accidents seen as preventable or to some extent unavoidable?
• Are employees encouraged to have a questioning attitude?
• Do employees believe they are treated with trust and respect?
Individual responsibility and accountability
• Do employees at all levels accept personal responsibility and accountability for safety or is it seen primarily as the job of the safety department?
• Are potential safety issues identified and addressed before an incident happens?
• Does senior management lead safety by personal example?
• Do all employees have the authority to stop work or is that authority reserved only for management?

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