In Brief

  • Overcoming management system deficiencies occurs only by modifying the way things get done---that is, only if an organization's culture is changed with respect to its system of expected performance. Thus, the safety professional's overarching role is that of a culture change agent.

  • This article recognizes the difficulties when the safety culture is negative and cites resources designed to help safety professionals become more effective culture change agents.

All safety professionals should view all hazardous situations as indicators of inadequacies in the safety management processes that relate to the existence of these situations. Assume that management takes corrective action to eliminate every hazardous situation identified. Safety professionals should realize that relatively little will be gained if no effort is made to eliminate the management system deficiencies. Eliminating those deficiencies will require changes in an organization's culture.

This idea, in a sense, extends the goal of the planning requirements established in Section 4 of ANSI/ASSE Z10-2012, Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems, which states, "The planning process goal is to identify and prioritize occupational health and safety management system issues (defined as hazards, risks, management system deficiencies and opportunities for improvement) and to establish objectives" (p. 9).

Overcoming management systems deficiencies occurs only by modifying the way things get done---that is, only if an organization's culture is changed with respect to its system of expected performance. Thus, the safety professionals overarching role is that of a culture change agent. To substantiate that premise, this article:

  • defines overarching, systems, processes, culture and culture change agent;

  • provides examples of situations in which safety professionals did not recommend the necessary systems and culture changes;

  • reviews job descriptions;

  • comments on a safety culture within an organization's overall culture and how the advice given by safety professionals affects the culture;

  • recognizes the difficulties when the safety culture is negative;

  • provides resources with respect to safety professionals as culture change agents;

  • proposes that the proposition made here be tested against the requirements of ANSI/ASSE Z10.

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