The complex interaction between humans, equipment/materials, and technology in today's changing work environment places increased needs on an organization's management systems. The interaction between an organization's systems and its culture demands leadership, developing a risk culture and managing change.

The primary objective of a safety management system is to provide a thorough understanding of the organization's risks, specifically as those risks affect people, property, process and the environment. When such an understanding is achieved, the organization can be more effective and efficient in developing its safety process. In the absence of such an understanding, safety management becomes largely a collection of activities based on past experience and regulatory requirements. While both experience and regulations are important, they alone are not sufficient for building a safety management process that will effectively control the organization's risks.

There are four dimensions that shape an organization's risk. This paper will address two:

  • Systems

  • Culture

Experience and Environment are the other dimensions.

Safety Culture

Culture influence is the strongly held and often unspoken ideologies, values, and assumptions that are the essence of culture, the expressed values and beliefs that reflect what a group wishes itself to be and wants others to believe about it, and the day-to-day behaviors and conditions found in an organization. The safety culture of an organization is the product of the individual and group values, attitudes, competencies and patterns of behavior that determine the commitment to, and the style and proficiency of an organization's safety program. Organizations with a positive safety culture are characterized by communication founded on mutual trust, by shared perceptions of the importance of safety, and by confidence in the efficacy of preventative measures.

Many organizations are looking for ways to secure gains made through behavior-based programs. Increasingly they are discovering that permanent behavioral changes require a change in organizational culture. Recent international developments and the global operations of many companies highlight the fact that culture is a strong influence on behavior. Building a safety culture that includes risk awareness or risk thinking includes several key activities.

Developing Risk Awareness: Before doing anything or making a decision everyone in the organization asks the key questions:

  • What can go wrong?

  • How bad can it be?

  • How likely is it to happen?

  • How will it affect me and others?

  • Who should I involve?

Training for Improvement: Training is a key component in building a safety culture. Here and there are questions that need to be answered in order to provide the right training.

  • Current culture- What do we really believe about safety?

  • Desired culture- What needs to change to get there?

  • How will this change impact on different levels of the organization?

    • Senior leaders

    • Mid-level leaders

    • Front-line leaders

    • Employees & staff

This content is only available via PDF.
You can access this article if you purchase or spend a download.