How to implement an effective safety culture in your company?

EQSEEnvironment How to implement an effective safety culture in your company?

How to implement an effective safety culture in your company?

Introduction to safety culture

Whenever we discuss    the safety performance,   the issue of implementing an effective safety culture invariably crops up.  However, what we   mean by safety culture is not clear to each of us.  What we must do, to strengthen the safety culture, within our organizations, is also not readily understood. Our first task, therefore, is to define and explain   safety culture in a precise manner before we discuss the steps involved   implementing the concepts.

Safety Culture has been defined by experts in many different ways. However, OSHA   comes to our rescue, as it offers a precise definition. It says, “Safety cultures consist of shared beliefs, practices and attitudes that exist at an establishment   …………..”  Thus, it is precisely the collective mind set   produced by the values, practices and attitudes towards safety that shapes the employee behavior in the work place. An effective safety culture would result in an employee behavior that is conducive to the accomplishment of safety goal of zero accidents and zero injuries.

The basic realization: All accidents are preventable

Action plan for safety culture implementation would begin with creation of a basic realization companywide, that all accidents are fully preventable, because they are caused by unsafe acts and risky behaviors. Individuals would assume responsibility for their own safety as well as the safety of co-workers and others. The effectiveness of   safety culture is demonstrated    in terms of safe behaviors and resulting safe actions throughout the organization.

Role of top management

Top management must take responsibility for safety and take ownership the safety management system of the company. Thus commitment to safety must begin at top management level. Even ISO 45001:2018 standard (the replacement to OHSAS 18001) emphasizes this issue. It should be ensured that trust is built at all levels by top management’s visible commitment to safety, and taking ownership for the safety goals and plans. Safety goals of zero accidents should figure in business goals of the company.

Employee engagement

ISO 45001(OHSAS 18001 as well) emphasizes employee engagement in improving safety performance. The employees and management together design policies, determine roles and responsibilities, and operationalize PDCA cycle for continual improvement of safety performance.  The employee engagement is enabled by ensuring open communication at all levels. These concepts strengthen the safety culture.

Employee Competence

ISO 45001:2018 focuses on employee competence as well as building harmonious relationship between employees and management. Effective safety culture implementation would also have a similar agenda. Training and competence building initiatives would ensure that employees as well as managers continuously update their skills as well as the knowledge and take interest in learning updated safe work methods. Harmonious employee relationship at every level would further strengthen the sharing of values, goals, information and positive attitude to safety.

In order to achieve the shared goal of zero accidents and zero injuries, the employees and managers are trained in hazard (risk) identification and their prompt mitigation. Thus employees get fully involved in   diagnostic journey and remedial journey of hazard identification, root cause analysis as well as problem solving. Corrective actions taken for removal of hazards and preventive actions for similar hazards company-wide,   helps sustain employee engagement as well. Top management support for hazard removal initiatives can help in building mutual trust between employees and management.

Performance analysis and behavior monitoring

In order to imbibe a sustainable safety culture, enterprise’s safety performance must be measured and analyzed continuously, so that opportunities for improvement can be uncovered promptly. Lost time incident rate is one of these measures.  The goal is to achieve a zero lost time injury rate. By focusing on frequent injuries resulting in lost time incidents, (such as fall incidents due to slipping or tripping) risky behavior as well as non- conformities can be readily identified.

Companies must relentlessly work for behavior modification for the cases of risky behaviors and simultaneously recognize and reward safe behaviors.   On the other hand, the employees must feel free to intervene and stop each other, whenever a risky behavior or a hazardous situation is noticed, without causing any discomfort or bitterness.

Report and analyse near miss incidents

Apart from monitoring accidents and the lost time injury rates, it is also important to report and analyze near misses, because underlying root causes for near misses are the same as those resulting in serious injuries and fatalities. If all the non- conformities as well as near miss incidents are reported honestly, and corrective actions are taken diligently, the goal of zero lost time injury rates becomes perfectly achievable.

We must also ensure that nobody is blamed for near misses, otherwise people will tend to avoid reporting non- conformities and near misses.  Instead of blaming individuals, opportunities for improving and fine-tuning the work system must be explored. The question to be asked is, “is the system    innocently encouraging some persons to display risky behavior?” if the answer is yes, the responsibility must be quickly assigned to rectify the weakness in the system.

Thus, sustainability of the effective safety culture depends upon how well the risky behavior is remedied and formation of safe work habits is recognized and rewarded.