Achieving a desired safety culture in any organization is not easy and to suggest that there is some magic bullet that provides a quick and easy solution is futile at best. Every organization is dynamic in nature and has its own personality. Added to this is the reality that safety success is for the most part, determined by the customer and for most of us, our list of customers is long and varied with differing definitions of what success looks like. Parallel to this thought is that there is no "one right way" to achieving a desired safety culture, but a myriad of elements employed to build robustness within the safety process. Simply put, organizations that demonstrate world class performance on a daily basis employ a strategy filled with elements that control loss producing variation in the work system.
Controlling process variation is not a new concept. Many successful operational effectiveness programs have been built around the tenant that reducing variability and stabilizing the manufacturing process supports the objective of producing world-class results. This is supported by the ever increasing global movement toward Lean Manufacturing and Six Sigma concepts and is evident in almost all highly successful organizations.
Applying this thinking to building a desired safety culture, maybe the best question to ask is "can an organization leave so much variation within the work system that workers are leveraged to make poor decisions while performing their work?" It seems logical that in many incidents where a worker chose to perform an unsafe act, their decision to err was leveraged by other uncontrolled variables residing in the work system.
In the book, Human Error Reduction and Safety Management, Dan Peterson writes that "human error is involved in every accident and there are many reasons behind this behavior." Peterson goes on to say that "when incidents occur, it's the result of systems failure and human error." The worker who chooses to do an unsafe act is directly linked to the work system where he or she resides.