Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Perceptions of management commitment to safety

I come across it very often that people at the sharp end perceive that their managers, although saying the right things, are not really that interested in safety.

An article in May 2006 Chemical Engineer by Tom Woollard illustrates this. "Most easy to spot is the company executive who makes sure that 'health and safety is the first agenda item' and is adept with emergency exit briefings and the 'safety first' and 'people are our greatest asset' rhetoric; and yet is often seen speeding out of the car park, sales figures on the passenger seat, clutching their mobiles to their ears. These kinds of safety observations tend to travel quickly through the organisation whether or not they are recorded in the safety log book."

Tom relates this to failures in behavioural safety programs. This occurs either through lack of commitment or perceived sincerity. Often because the company has not got the right culture in place for the program to work effectively.

One solution, apparently, is to make sure people understand the importance of safety at work and at home. This supposedly starts to work at an emotional level.

I guess this can work, but as Tom says it is easy for them to be seen as gimmicks if done badly. I guess my concern is that the message become that risk is not acceptable, and it can quickly result in people not doing what they enjoy doing when out of work.

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